Construction Site Safety and Trench-Related Injuries

Joe gets hired to do construction work for an excavation contractor. He doesn’t know what all the work entails exactly, but he is excited to have a job. He says good bye to his family and tucks his lunch pail on the seat next to his coffee thermos and heads to his first day on the job.

The boss says “get down in the trench and grab ahold of the pipe I am going to hand you”. Joe jumps in the trench and looks up at the boss. It is a long way up and all of sudden Joe starts thinking “what if this trench collapses?”

This is a scene that plays out all too frequently these days.  Data from 2016 reveals that 23 construction workers were killed in trench collapses, which is nearly double the average of trench-related fatalities from the previous five years. But why is this happening? Trench collapses or cave-ins are preventable, so long as proper construction site safety measures are taken and workers are thoroughly trained.

In the scenario set out above, no one took the time to train Joe. Protective measures such as benching or sloping trench walls are important steps that need to be taken to prevent trench cave-ins. Shoring trench walls with supports further helps prevent soil movement that can lead to cave-ins. Shielding trench walls with trench boxes or the like also helps ensure that the soil will not cave in. Depending on the depth of the trench, more sophisticated protective systems may be required to protect workers. For example, OSHA requires that trenches that are 20 feet deep or more have a protective system in place that is designed by a registered professional engineer.

Not only do trench cave-ins pose great risk to construction workers, but other hazards as well, such as falling loads or debris that are too close to the edges of the trench put them at risk. Amidst rising trench-related deaths in recent years, you would think that improving workers’ safety during trenching and excavation projects would be a top priority in the construction industry. But all too often it is not.

Over the years, our firm has helped people who have been injured at construction sites. Such cases can involve crane and equipment related injuries, contact with electric wires, or a trench-related incident. If you or a loved one has been hurt on a construction site, feel free to contact our office at +1 (219) 736-9700 and speak with an attorney about your situation.