We have discussed scaffolding accidents at construction sites before in this blog. Falls and other incidents far above the ground do put New York’s construction workers in grave danger. But you can also face a life-threatening construction accident at ground level — and below.
Any time a construction worker is down in a trench, they are aware of the possibility of a collapse. According to the CDC, trench collapses are one of the deadliest construction accidents possible. The agency reports 373 deaths in trench collapses in this country from 2003 to 2017. The vast majority of the victims were construction workers.
What makes a trench collapse so dangerous
The problem is that the typical dirt trench is several feet deep. The walls can reach above most construction workers’ heads. The dirt “walls” surrounding the workers can collapse suddenly, burying everyone inside before they can escape. A person buried completely in dirt can quickly suffocate if they are not immediately rescued.
Preventing a collapse
Proper precautions can make a construction trench reasonably safe and minimize the risk of collapse. OSHA regulations require that all trenches at least five feet deep must be dug in one of four specific ways: sloping, benching, shoring with supports or shielding the trench with a trench box.
Careful planning is also necessary. Besides ensuring the workers digging the trench are adequately trained, contractors and subcontractors should find out where utility lines are buried and avoid them, test the soil for stability, and have an emergency action plan in place.
Unfortunately, not every contractor maintains proper safety standards at their worksites. If you have lost a loved one in a trench collapse or other construction accident, or if you survived an accident but suffered severe injuries, you should know your options for compensation.