Shortcuts Are Never Worth It

By Thad Plumley

A work crew for a water utility company not too far from my hometown probably thought a day earlier this spring was going to be like any other.

The employees left their houses, drove to the office, and then headed to a waterline job site where they went to work in a dug-out trench.

It wasn’t a typical day, though. The 6-by-8-foot trench collapsed on one of the workers and killed him. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors reported they didn’t find a trench box or any shoring materials to protect the worker.

As you surely know—and I suspect this work crew probably did as well—OSHA requires any trench deeper than 4 feet needs to have reinforced walls.

This means a shortcut taken is the difference between a crew having a typical day on the job and one that turns into a tragedy, marked with death and painful memories never forgotten by the survivors.

Shortcuts aren’t worth it. It seems obvious when reading of lives changed like the ones near me, but they’re easy to take and thousands do every single day.

For some people, what is shorter is time needed on a jobsite and far too often people live by the philosophy of time is money. Don’t fall into that trap. Do you think the company near me thinks saved time of not putting up trench reinforcements was worth it?

Make sure your firm has a detailed safety program. More importantly, make sure everyone at your company is 100% bought in to the program, and it is followed every day.

Do you have safety meetings every morning before employees head to their job sites? Chances are you do, but now answer part two: Are they really safety meetings with everyone participating, or are they a chance to wake up over coffee and doughnuts while the conversation is a mix of safety, the game last night, and what the kids are up to?

I receive job site pictures from water well contractors all around the world throughout the year. Many of them end up dotting the covers and pages of Water Well Journal. They make me envious on occasion because while I pound a keyboard at a desk every day, I see some of the breathtaking natural beauty you get to call your office. What a wonderful perk to your job.

But here’s a sad reality: I am unable to use half of the images submitted because they fail a safety check conducted by members of WWJ’s Editorial Review Board. No personal protective equipment. Nearby powerlines. Improper blocking and leveling. Trip hazards and countless other violations. All were submitted.

All were shortcuts. All were not worth it.

Thad PlumleyThad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at and on Twitter @WaterWellJournl.