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How Can Workers Prevent Trench Cave-Ins?

A major danger of excavations and trench-digging is a collapse. Workers caught in a collapsed trench are essentially buried alive. It is one of the most horrific ways imaginable to die.

With all the construction that goes on in New York City, it is inevitable that some tragic accidents will befall workers. However, trench collapses are quite easily prevented. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has well-defined precautions necessary for working safely around excavation sites.

Because there is no advance warning before a collapse, workers don’t have time to get out of harm’s way. One cubic yard of dirt may weigh over 3,000 pounds, easily suffocating and crushing construction workers in its path.

During the last decade, there were 350 fatalities for workers in cave-ins. This averages out to 35 preventable deaths each year. OSHA data over one, five-year period indicated that 64 percent of deaths in collapsed trenches happened at depths under 10 feet. A review of agency inspections showed that failing to erect a protective system was the primary cause of deaths from trench cave-ins.

According to OSHA regulations, all excavations of five or more feet deep must use one of the below protections:

— Benching the ground

— Sloping the ground

— Shoring up the trench with hydraulic jacks or planking

— Using a trench box as a shield

Below are some safety recommendations to employ before digging:

— A trained, competent individual should be designated to ensure safety compliance

— Call 811 prior to excavating to identify utility lines and “pot-hole” their exact depth and location

— Evaluate the soil for stability

— Have a competent person evaluate the soil to determine its stability

— The supervisor or safety person should devise and implement the protective system prior to the start of the excavation

— The layout for the job should include areas located away from the excavation for routes for heavy equipment and spoil piles

— No workers under 18 should be allowed to work in a trench

If you survived a trench collapse, you can pursue compensation for your injuries in the New York civil courts.

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “Preventing Worker Deaths from Trench Cave-ins,” accessed Sep. 03, 2015