Word Combinations that Make Contractors Lose Sleep:

Dump Truck and a School Bus

Construction Worker Deaths in Sewer Line

The only time I can imagine hearing the six words , Dump Truck and a School Bus together, when it might be a good thing, is in an episode of Bob the Builder. If you have kids, and you’re in the construction business, you probably know Bob. If not, you can get information at www.bobthebuilder.com.


When I first heard those six words, in 1974, as the Safety Officer for Pleasant Excavating, in Clarksburg, Maryland, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. The ninety mile drive to the accident scene in Leonardtown, Maryland, gave me plenty of time to think the worst (back before smart phone minute-by-minute updates). Fortunately, it was only a heavy duty fender bender. The few student bumps and bruises were a relief to everyone involved. I don’t remember any litigation as a result (unlikely these days!), just a shook up truck driver. Most of the yellow paint on our red Autocar dump trucks was from bumping into CAT equipment. Didn’t want any more school bus yellow on them!

Another six word combination nobody wants to hear is when the news teams today (November 4) are talking about Construction Worker Deaths in Sewer Line. Yesterday’s news was about one worker, on a three-man crew working for a national utility contractor, who went into a sanitary line manhole for some work reason, in Fairview, TX, just north of Dallas. He was overcome by either toxic or no air. Unfortunately, another crew member went down to help him, and now both are victims. 

On the radio on the way to work this morning, they were still looking for the second fellow, who was washed down the line. The rescue crews, using remote sensing devices, found an obstruction between manholes, which they expect may be the second worker.

One of the men has five children, according to his brother, the third crew member who fortunately called 911 instead of becoming the third victim.

Of course, OSHA is investigating, and will report their results in a few months. Meanwhile, according to the news sources, it appears the workers didn’t have confined space equipment. There aren’t many spaces more confined than sewer lines. We can only hope they had the training and equipment needed for their assignment. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, consider the amount of sleep that will be lost by the following:

  • The company safety officer
  • The supervisor who sent the men to do the job
  • The company president and owner, if not the same person
  • The company risk manager
  • The company’s insurance agent
  • The company’s other employees who knew the victims
  • The victim’s family
    • Brother who was the third crew member
    • The five children we know of
    • The spouses
    • Other relatives and friends of the victim
  • The rescuers who went into the line to retrieve the bodies (I know they lose sleep because my brother was a firefighter for 12 years for the City of Napa, California – said the worst calls were car accidents with hurt kids!)
  • The people who have had close calls in similar situations, and escaped because of their training or luck
  • Maybe those of us who love our industry, appreciate its inherent dangers, and wonder how these accidents continue to happen.
  • People involved in this incident, or any like it, who thought more about the cost of the safety equipment, time or project budget instead of how much they could lose (in addition to sleep!), from not doing EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to do what was right.

Work safely and sleep well!