Throughout the United States, there are two deaths every single month as a result of a worker being crushed under fallen earth. These deaths happen as a result of unprotected trenches.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes the tremendous risks that trenches present to workers and has established clear guidelines to prevent fatalities. In too many cases, however, these guidelines are not followed. Safety BLR recently reported on one contractor who was cited by OSHA for failure to follow trench safety rules. The contractor was one of many each year putting employees at serious risk of death or permanent injury.
If you or your family member was injured or killed in a trench collapse, it is important to understand your rights and pursue a claim for compensation for losses. An Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer can guide you through the legal process of recovering monetary damages and getting medical bills and wage loss covered.
Trench Collapse Can Cause Atlanta Workplace Deaths
OSHA has referred to an unprotected trench on a worksite as an “early grave” because the risk it presents is so significant. A single cubic yard of soil fallen on top of a person can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds. This is the weight of a small automobile. It takes only seconds for someone to be crushed underneath this weight, and co-workers cannot provide help quickly enough to prevent crushing injuries when a trench has caved in.
OSHA regulations stipulate that as soon as a trench is at least five feet deep, a protective system must be put in place to prevent trench collapse. The only exception to this is if the trench is made 100 percent of stable rock.
If the trench is less than five feet in depth, someone who is competent in assessing trench safety has the authority to make the decision that no trench protection system is necessary. If the trench is in excess of 20 feet deep, a protective system must be in place designed after considering data provided by a professional engineer, or designed in consultation with a registered professional engineer.
The four types of acceptable trench protection systems that may be utilized on trenches include:
- Sloping: This involves cutting the trench wall at an angle that is inclined away from whee the excavation is occurring.
- Benching: This involves excavating the sides of the trench in order to form steps or to form different levels.
- Shielding: This involves using supports such as trench boxes in order to prevent the sides of the trench from caving in.
- Shoring: This involves the installation of aluminum hydraulic or similar kinds of supports.
Daily inspections of trenches are mandated to ensure safety systems remain in place and operational. If conditions change, the trench must also be re-inspected. A safe means of getting out, such as ramps or steps, must also be accessible to workers doing excavation work.
Despite these required precautions, too many people are injured or killed in trench collapses. An attorney can assist you in making a workers’ comp or other damage claim if a cave-in occurs.
Parsons & Associates, P.C. is an Atlanta workers’ compensation law firm serving Atlanta, Savannah, and surrounding areas throughout Fulton County. Contact Parsons & Associates, P.C. today at 770-422-9000 or contact us online if you have been injured at work.