Cave-ins and collapses of trenches are high on the list of causes for death and severe workplace injuries on construction sites nationwide, including California. State and federal safety agencies prescribe strict safety regulations, along with guidelines to prevent trench-related construction workers accidents. Sadly, in many cases, profits are prioritized over worker safety, and some employers regard trench safety as too time-consuming and costly.
According to the safety standards mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a designated competent person must inspect trench stability and protective systems daily. Inspections are also crucial when weather or other environmental changes occur that could compromise the stability of trench walls. Workers should be aware that they can refuse to enter a trench without cave-in protection and safe access and egress. The trench must be free of atmospheric hazards and standing water, and materials and equipment must not be placed near the edge of the trench.
OSHA further requires trenches deeper than five feet to have collapse protection, and professional engineers must design protective systems for those that exceed depths of 20 feet. There are three methods to stabilize trench walls, one of which is shielding the walls by inserting trench boxes. Shoring the walls by aluminum hydraulic supports can prevent the movement of soil, and sloping or benching involves angling of the walls so that they are inclined outward and away from the trench.
Sadly, many lives are lost each year in construction workers accidents that involve cave-ins of trench walls. Workers who are fortunate enough to survive such a collapse can pursue workers’ compensation benefits claims to cover medical expenses and lost wages. Families who have to deal with the loss of a loved one in such an accident can claim death benefits that will provide financial assistance. They can also utilize the skills of an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney to guide and support them throughout the navigation of the benefits claims process.