Construction is an inherently dangerous industry. Workers in this field must contend with extreme hot or cold weather conditions. They must work from high ladders and rooftops – putting themselves at risk of deadly slip-and-fall accidents. In addition, they also operate dangerous machinery – and one mistake could lead to disaster.
As dangerous as construction work is, the most hazardous construction operation by far involves working in trenches. The fatality rate for excavation and trenching tasks is a whopping 112% higher than general construction work.
What makes trenching so dangerous?
Cave-ins are the most common trenching accident. An employee is working in the trench, and the walls suddenly give way, creating a virtual avalanche over the trapped worker. You may not think that dirt can be that destructive, but survival from such accidents is rare. One cubic yard of soil has the same weight as a car. If a worker is not crushed under the force of the impact, they will likely die from asphyxiation.
What can site managers do to prevent such accidents?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed certain safety standards for anyone working in trenches. A safe trenching area is one that:
- Slopes or benches trench walls
- Uses supports to shore trench walls
- Uses trench boxes to shield trench walls
In addition, any trench more than 20 feet deep must be designed by a registered engineer.
Understanding your rights
Construction companies and landowners have a legal responsibility to provide a work site free of safety hazards. If you believe your workplace is not compliant with safety standards, it pays to speak up by reporting the violation to your manager or to OSHA. It could save your life.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a trenching – or other construction-related – accident, it can pay to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer about your case. They can help you understand your rights and recourse.