Quick action by co-workers saved the life of a South Dakota construction worker who was almost completely buried in a trench collapse last week.

News reports say the man was working in a sewer trench Tuesday in Emery when the incident occurred, covering all but one of his hands in dirt.

His fellow workers and an emergency medical technician were able to free his head from the dirt in minutes, while it took an additional half an hour to completely uncover him.

He was luckier than 60-year-old Vaughn Kopetsky, who died one day earlier in a drainage ditch accident in Rostraver Township, Pennsylvania.

Authorities say Kopetsky was using a ladder to climb out of an unprotected area of the eight-foot-ditch when the collapse occurred. He was pulled from the ditch by rescuers but could not be resuscitated.

Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations, according to OSHA, which requires protective systems for trenches five feet deep or greater unless the excavation is made entirely of stable rock.

Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are much more likely than other excavation-related accidents to result in worker fatalities.