Mudge Porter Lundeen & Seguin, S.C.
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Digging your own grave


We all know we will die at some point, we hope, far in the future. But the reality of death means cemeteries have to perform many burials, and that means someone has to dig the grave. The workers employed in this business probably, that they too, will someday need a grave of their own, but they likewise expect it to occur far in the future.

What they don't expect is that a grave they are digging for someone else will become theirs, due to a collapse or cave in or engulfment. Such an incident occurred in New York cemetery, but luckily for the worker, he was only buried up to his waist and was able to be safely extracted from the open grave. The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cited the cemetery for two willful violations for the incident.


But gravediggers are not the only ones at risk of being buried alive. In Wisconsin, any employee of a company that excavates basements, trenches or basic landscaping work is potentially at risk. Plumbers and electricians, who may be called to install pipes or cables underground or in trenches, could also be at risk.

Trench collapses kill workers across the country every year. None of these deaths is an accident, as the mechanism of collapses is well understood. OSHA has explicit regulations that govern this activity and the means of preventing worker deaths is well understood.

These deaths occur because someone believes they know the risks and can save some time and money by cutting corners and skipping some of the safety requirements. They may also intimidate workers who recognize the threat into placing themselves at risk. Doing the job properly maybe expensive and complex, but it is essential to protect worker's lives.

Source:, "Gravedigger engulfed in cave-in of unguarded grave at Long Island cemetery," OSHA Regional News Release, November 24, 2015

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Mudge Porter Lundeen & Seguin, S.C.
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