Trench Collapses - Consumer Justice Foundation

Trench Collapses

Written by Faith Anderson on July 30, 2013
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Building a trench is a necessary step to take in many construction projects, especially those in which buried utilities are being constructed or repaired. Unfortunately, trench collapses, possibly caused by worker negligence, failure to follow safety guidelines, or poorly dug trenches, occur far too often on the job site, sometimes resulting in serious injuries and possibly even death. In many cases, trench collapses and the resulting consequences could have been avoided had the proper steps been taken by employers and supervisors to protect the safety of their workers. Unfortunately, those who are driven by profit often cut corners to save time and money, thereby putting construction workers at risk of injury and death on a daily basis. If you were injured in a trench collapse, or if you lost a loved one in a trench collapse, contact a construction accident attorney to explore your compensation options.

Causes of Trench Collapses

One of the most devastating aspects of trench collapses on construction sites is that many of these tragic accidents are completely avoidable. Workers depend on their employers, general contractors and supervisors to make the workplace a safe environment, and they are required by federal law to do so. However, when responsibilities are shirked, or when safety protocol is ignored, trench collapses and other catastrophic construction site accidents may occur. Common causes of trench collapses include the following:

  • Equipment defects
  • Improper shoring
  • Flooding
  • Poor digging
  • Machinery resting too close to the trench

Injuries Caused by Trench Collapses

A trench is a deep and narrow opening in the ground that poses a significant danger to those around it on construction sites. For this reason, when trenches are constructed, they must have safeguards in place to protect the workers inside from a trench collapse. When a trench collapses, construction workers can easily become crushed under the weight of the soil falling from above, and suffocation can occur when buried under only a couple feet of soil. When trench collapses do occur, some possible injuries caused by this type of accident include:

  • Spinal cord injury
  • Broken back
  • Broken pelvis
  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Hip and knee injuries
  • Broken wrists or ankles
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Cartilage tears
  • Suffocation
  • Wrongful death

OSHA Regulations for the Prevention of Trench Collapses

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries are caused by trench collapses each year. To avoid the tragic injury and loss of life resulting from trench collapses, OSHA has established the following safety guidelines to protect workers from harm and minimize the risk of accidents such as these.

  • Always use a protective system for trenches 20 feet or deeper
  • Never enter an unprotected trench
  • Always provide a way to exit a trench, such as a stairway, ramp or ladder, with no more than 25 feet of lateral travel for workers in the trench
  • Make sure trenches are inspected by a competent person prior to entry and after any hazard-increasing event, such as a rainstorm
  • Keep spoils at least two feet back from the edge of a trench

A Construction Accident Attorney Can Help

Workers who are injured in on-the-job accidents should be aware that there are workers’ compensation laws in their state that were established specifically to protect their rights after sustaining a workplace injury. If you or a loved one has suffered from an injury caused by a construction site trench collapse, contact a construction accident attorney today. You may be entitled to medical benefits which you can collect by filing a workers’ compensation claim, and you may even have grounds to file a third-party liability claim for additional compensation if your injuries were caused by a third party not employed by your employer. It is the duty of employers to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment for all employees, and any act of carelessness or negligence that results in an accident should be dealt with accordingly. If you were injured at work, you should not be left to struggle with your injuries, medical bills, and loss of income on your own. With the help of an experienced construction accident attorney, you can protect your legal rights and pursue the financial compensation you deserve.

Posted Under: On The Job Injury, Work Related Lawsuits
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