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Can Site Workers Prevent Trench Cave-Ins?

Prevent Trench Cave-Ins

One of the largest dangers during excavations and trench-digging is the risk of collapse. A worker caught in the collapsed trench could suffer significant injuries – and often, these tragedies result in death. With all of the construction and the sites opening up in New York City, it is almost inevitable that a tragic jobsite accident will occur. However, trench cave-ins are easily prevented. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has established protocols and precautions that are necessary for workers involved in trench and excavation work. These protocols are designed specifically to prevent a trench collapse – but are poorly implemented at local job sites.

The Dangers of Collapse

There is little warning before a trench collapse will occur – and often workers have seconds to escape harm’s way. A single cubic yard of dirt can weigh over 3,000 pounds – which can easily crush and suffocate the human body. In the last 10 years, there have been 350 fatalities as the result of trench cave-ins. This equates to an average of 35 lives that could be saved each year.

According to OSHA, a single five-year period indicated that 64 percent of collapsed trench deaths occurred at just less than 10 feet. After an in-depth review of these fatalities, it was determined that the job site failed to implement protective systems and that this was the primary cause of death.

How to Prevent Trench Cave-Ins

OSHA regulations specify how trench collapses can be prevented. Any time an excavation occurs at five or more feet in depth, the workers must implement one of the following protections:

  1. Benching the ground
  2. Sloping
  3. Shoring the trench with planks or hydraulic jacks
  4. Using trench boxes as shields

In addition to these OSHA regulations, there are additional recommendations that have been made for excavation projects, including:

  1. Only trained, competent workers should be in charge of all safety compliance. These individuals should be educated on OSHA and excavation regulations and be frequently re-trained to ensure the latest procedures are implemented on the site at all times.
  2. The soil should be evaluated for stability before excavation begins.
  3. Site foremen must contact 811 prior to excavation to identify any utility lines and identify their exact depths.
  4. Competent individuals must be in charge of soil evaluation – and a geologist should be consulted prior to excavating.
  5. Protective systems should be implemented before the start of the dig and a supervisor must monitor those protective systems.
  6. All workers allowed inside the trench area must be 18 years or older.

What to do If Injured in a Trench Collapse

Often trench collapses occur due to poor safety protocols or lack thereof. If you were injured and survived a jobsite collapse, contact the attorneys at Schwartzapfel® Lawyers P.C. You may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits or possibly a third-party claim regarding your injury. If a wrongful death occurs, surviving family can seek retribution for the death of their loved one. Call us today at 1-877-737-4806 to schedule a free consultation or ask us a question online.

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