According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
“Trench collapses, or cave-ins, pose the greatest risk to workers’ lives.”
To reduce this risk, OSHA established safety requirements that all employers must adhere to in order to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards. These requirements are available in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) 1926.651 and 1926.652.
When employers fail to follow the rules and regulations listed in the e-CFR, people get hurt. Specifically, when a trench caves in, unprotected workers can be buried by 4,000 pounds of soil or suffocate due to oxygen deprivation.
What Is a Trench?
As defined by OSHA and 360Training:
“excavations refer to any man-made cavity, trench or depression on the surface that resulted from earth removal. A trench is the result of an excavation and which is deep and 15 feet wide.”
Inside a trench, a single cubic yard of soil weighs the same as a small pickup truck. Trench collapses occur when the walls of the trench cannot withstand the weight of the surrounding soil.
5 Things to Look for Before Getting in a Trench
If you work around trenches, make sure you know the 5 rules for safe trenching:
- Make sure there is a safe way to enter and exit the trench
- All trenches must have cave-in protection
- Keep materials away from the edge of the trench
- Look for standing water and other hazards
- Never enter a trench that hasn’t been properly inspected
If you feel there is a problem or don’t feel safe going into a trench, talk to your employer. You have the right to receive information and training about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and how OSHA standards apply to your workplace. Additionally, you can report your concerns to OSHA without retaliation, which means your employer cannot fire you for being concerned about your own safety.
The Consequences of Trench Accidents
Due to the weight of the soil, many trench collapses are fatal. People who survive cave-ins or other trench accidents are often left with serious injuries. Bereaved families and injured workers may be able to recover compensation for funeral bills, medical costs, lost wages, and other damages through workers’ compensation or a third-party negligence claim. Employers may also face penalties for violating OSHA standards.
If you wish to file a construction accident claim, the Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli can help. With over 2 decades of legal experience, we can help you make the aftermath of a trench collapse less insurmountable.
Call us at (516) 628-6402 or contact us online to find out what resources you may be entitled to – we can evaluate the strengths and weakness of your case and estimate the value of your claim 24/7 during a free consultation.