Imagine falling into a hole 55’ deep and only 33” wide. That’s exactly what happened to Zach Rogan, in Carrollton, Texas, last week. A student on summer break from the Weatherford Fire Academy, Zach had taken a job with Texas Shafts for the summer. As he was cleaning around the hole, finishing his work for the day, things suddenly went wrong. He took a step forward and his left leg went into the hole and he started falling. Quick thinking helped make this terrible accident better than it could have been. Zach kicked his legs out and pushed the sides of the hole with his arms to slow the fall. He made it to the bottom of the shaft alive!
Firefighters from Carrollton and Coppell worked quickly to lower a rescue worker to the bottom of the shaft. That task took 30 minutes. A tripod with a pulley was set up over the shaft, as the team of paramedics got ready. A firefighter quickly put a strapped vest on Rogan, and a cable slowly lifted the men up out of the hole to safety. This was a tough assignment, since a 33’ hole is only slightly larger than the width of a man’s shoulders.
In researching a situation like this, I found that shafts 30” or greater in diameter and 6’ or more in depth require some form of fall protection at the surface of the shaft. Fall protection, including a rescue plan, must be in place prior to drilling any shaft. Guardrails must be around the shaft. At the end of the day, there should be a sturdy cover placed over the shaft.
Companies should have fall protection guidelines for workers, so they understand what is required for their safety. They should participate in fall prevention training, and use fall protection equipment if required for the job. Workers also need to be taught how to inspect the devices they may use, to ensure they are in good condition.
We are thankful that Zach survived this fall and hopeful that more care will be taken when working around shafts. It only takes a few seconds for accidents to happen. Rogan, 20, is a very lucky young man. He is recovering from surgery to stabilize his crushed vertebrae, as well as suffering some nerve damage. He still plans to become a firefighter, and hopes to be on the other side of an accident like this….as a rescuer and not a victim.