Trench Collapse Accidents
In spite of stringent OSHA regulations related to trench construction and shoring, trench collapses occur with alarming frequency in the United States. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 271 workers died in such trench collapses across the U.S. between 2000 and 2006.
In fact, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, trenching and excavation-related hazards caused an average of 54 deaths every year between 1992 and 2000.
Trench collapses seem to be much more prevalent in smaller companies. At least 68% of trench collapse-related fatalities between 1992 and 2000 involved employees working in construction companies with less than 50 workers, while 46% of the fatalities involved companies with less than 10 workers.
Trench Collapse-Related Injuries
There are a number of ways that a worker can be injured in a trench. For instance, a worker may be electrocuted when he or she comes into contact with a power line during the excavation process. An employee may be injured by falling into a trench or by falling equipment or tools that fall into the trench. However, the most frequent and most devastating injuries involve workers who are trapped in a trench collapse.
When a worker enters a trench that is unprotected and has not been strengthened and stabilized, he or she may be at serious risk of injury or fatality. A trench collapse occurs when large amounts of soil that have been piled at the sides of the trench become displaced because of instability or some other reason and begin pouring into the trench. There’s no warning when the trench walls begin to collapse and soil may pour into the trench at a very high speed.
A worker inside the trench could find himself or herself buried under tons of soil within no time at all. Other workers might not be able to reach the worker in time to save him or her. In fact, fatalities are very common in such accidents because rescue personnel may be too late to reach the trapped worker.
It’s not surprising therefore that so many fatalities are linked to trench collapses every year. The primary cause of fatality in many of these cases is asphyxiation.
Prevention of Trench Collapses
Stringent adherence to Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations related to trench construction and shoring, training of workers to avoid hazards in the trench, and ensuring that the trench is completely safe and stable before workers are allowed in are just some of the ways to avoid trench collapses.
Peter Ventura is a Massachusetts workplace injury lawyer dedicated to representing injured workers in the Massachusetts area and helping them recover compensation for their injuries.