There are two types of circumstances that could occur during trench digging that would require emergencyVacuum_Trucks recovery operations: a collapse with severe injuries or an entrapment without a collapse. Trench rescues involving a collapse of the surrounding walls of the ditch could position a trapped worker as either partially or completely buried by a great deal of earth.

There may be many reasons for such a collapse; however, the most important issue is that any worker thus trapped must be removed with the utmost speed either manually or with a pneumatic soil reduction or with vacuum trucks suctioning effort to successfully complete a rescue operation.

Emergency Trench Rescues

As a rule of thumb, to reach a buried victim, dirt removal must begin around the head and chest to facilitate breathing. In the past, mechanical equipment could not be used when digging a buried worker because that only seemed to worsen the scenario. Currently, to efficiently manage the extraction of partially or totally buried individuals, rescuers use vacuum trucks to safely remove the soil covering a trapped worker. It is the one advanced recovery method that is successful in most emergency trench rescue activities.

Identifying Hazards

The primary hazard when using vacuum trucks for emergency trench rescues is the weight and vibration produced by the motor as fully-loaded the vehicle weight will increase and could lead to a secondary mishap. As a result, the vehicle should be positioned 15 feet away from the site to decrease such a risk. On the other hand, the vibration created by the equipment while pumping could cause another collapse; therefore, EMS personnel must create a 50 to 300 foot vibration-free zone perimeter before beginning rescue operations. One additional consideration is that the suction capacity of the vacuum could cause severe injury to both rescue personnel and victims; therefore, extreme caution must be taken during the operation.

Soil Removal Process

When using vacuum trucks for trench emergencies to extract trapped workers, there are several steps that must be followed:

  • Assess Area – Conduct a primary survey to assess any hazards and be sure the area is safe and set up a 50 to 300 foot vibration-free zone perimeter.
  • Assess Resources – Be sure to have the materials needed for the operation such as air-knife, air-spade, compressor, and vacuum truck.
  • Assess Victim – Assess victim’s responsiveness; if the victim is responsive, begin the operation immediately.
  • Prepare Area – Ground pads should be engaged near the trench lip and purge any trip hazards found in the area. A resource area should be established near the trench hot zone while preparing all shoring devices.
  • Begin Operations – Once everything is in place and ready, emergency response personnel should start removing the soil covering the victim’s head and chest using vacuum trucks to remove the debris and dirt. An air-knife should be used to pulverize hard soil and blow it towards the suction tube.
  • Remove Worker – When the victim is free from dirt, a patient-lifting device should be used to extricate the trapped worker.

This advanced method of removing trapped workers during trench emergencies is possible through the use of vacuum trucks. Pneumatic soil reduction is known to be a safe, efficient, and speedy strategy to extricate a victim who is partially or totally buried underground. Vacuum truck drivers must be trained for emergency response as related to trench rescue. This vehicle can safely remove soil that has buried a victim; it is an effective way to complete the extrication operation in minutes instead of hours. Indeed, it is an innovative method to use vacuum trucks to safely rescue trapped workers!