The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires construction company owners to appoint a competent person to conduct thorough manual and visual tests of the soil in which trenches are excavated. This person must then determine what type of protection is required to prevent cave-ins. Fatal construction workers accidents can occur if trench walls are not adequately supported.
Earlier this year, two construction workers were trapped in a trench where the walls were inadequately secured because the soil was not classified as unstable. A Cal/OSHA report indicates that the trench was 17 feet deep, and the section of the wall that collapsed was approximately 30 feet wide. It was at a residential building site, and the workers were busy with a sewer-pipe installation. One of the two workers in the trench managed to escape, but the second worker did not survive.
The agency reported that this was not the first time that this contractor was cited for failure to protect workers from cave-ins. The previous citation was issued in May 2017, with penalties exceeding $24,600. The investigation into fatal trench collapse from May 2018 led to $66,000 in penalties.
Knowing that fatal construction workers accidents were preventable makes it even more traumatic for surviving family members of deceased workers. Fortunately, the unanticipated financial burden can be eased. The California workers' compensation insurance system provides survivors' benefits to cover end-of-life expenses and financial assistance to make up for lost wages. The claims process could be challenging, but that is where the support and guidance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney can be invaluable.