There is no doubt that construction workers face a lot of challenges and hazards at the workplace everyday. There are numerous things that can cause injury. Repetitive heavy lifting is just one example. Not only is this type of work difficult, it can result in back injuries.
In addition, falls from scaffolding, heavy objects being dropped from great heights, exposure to live electrical wires, and loud noise that can result in hearing loss are all examples of workplace hazards that can cause injury or death.
Trench accidents are regarded as one of the most dangerous and devastating types of construction site accidents. A trench is when earth is excavated to form a narrow opening in the ground and is used for varying purposes, such as to bury electrical wires, conduit, and plumbing, or to otherwise gain access to an underground area.
The workers who dig trenches are often exposed to a number of risks, such as falls, cave-ins, or exposure to hazardous materials or live electrical wires. Employers have a duty to make reasonable efforts under the circumstances to ensure the safety and security of workers. In spite of that duty, there are hundreds of reports of trench accidents at construction sites reported every year.
When a worker is injured due to an employer’s negligence, he or she may be able to obtain compensation for expenses related to the injury and for other damages. Consult a Construction Accident Lawyer who understands personal injury law, especially as it relates to accidents at the workplace.
The hazards of the trench worker
Trenching activities are indeed quite laborious and often involve life threatening risks. Risks are not confined to cave-ins; although, that is a common accident a trench worker might face. Other risks include slips, trips and falls, chemical hazards, or being crushed by heavy machinery that falls into the trench on top of unsuspecting workers. These hazards might lead to an accident that has detrimental effects.
Therefore, understanding common excavation injuries can help to ensure a safer work environment. When employers know they are on the hook for injuries that occur at the workplace, they may be more included to take precautionary measures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2011 to 2018, 1,030 workers died from occupational injuries involving a confined space, including 203 specifically caused by trench accidents. Knowing a few things about these types of accidents can help workers avoid dangerous conditions, such collapses, which may occur due to one or more of the following reasons:
- Weak soil
- Heavy equipment that vibrates the soil
- Unavailability of protective structures
- Failure to properly inspect the trench
- The depth of the trench.
OSHA safety requirements
The Occupation Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has published regulations requiring workplace safety, especially for those who work at construction sites.
OSHA has specific excavation requirements, including proper soil classifications, appropriate sloping of trench sides, and using reinforcements to shore or reinforce the sides of a trench.
The worker needs to be provided with appropriate safety equipment and helmets designed to protect the worker from fatal Workplace Injury accidents. In addition to safety equipment, businesses and employers must follow federal laws and regulations related to workplace safety.
They should follow adequate safety inspections of the job site on a regular, consistent schedule, ideally before the workday begins and at the end of each shift. Any risks identified should be adequately corrected or appropriate signage and other precautionary measures should be put into place.
Knowing the hazard at a trench site may help you avoid being injured if you work at a construction site. Knowing what the risks are can inform your behavior and preparation. Below are are a few examples of excavation and trench hazards:
Some sources report that trench collapse kills an average of two workers every month. This is a significant threat to workers. If the trench is not properly secured with a retaining wall and other structural reinforcements, it may collapse. This can potentially result in the victim being crushed by thousands of pounds of dirt. A proper inspection of the trench to ensure it meets OSHA standards may be necessary.
- Falling loads
It is not uncommon for workers to trip and fall or drop heavy equipment into an excavated area. That is why it is important to create a safety barrier around the perimeter of the excavated area with appropriate signage to warn people of the danger. Employees working near the trench are in danger of falling and injuring themselves, while those working inside the trench are at risk of being injured by falling equipment, debris, and other workers.
- Unsafe air quality
Trenches may not have safe air quality. Not only is oxygen depleted at certain depths, but poisonous gases can also harm those who work in the excavated area. That is why OSHA requires air testing to be performed by a certified professional. Employees should wear adequate respiratory gear or else asphyxiation can occur when there is inadequate ventilation.
If you are an employee suffering with a medical condition or injury that occurred at the workplace, contact Work Injury Lawyers. They can help you recover the proper compensation that you are owed for your injuries.