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 safety authorities, falls remain the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry in California and across the country, and the unsafe use of ladders are often the cause. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says almost one-third of the annual fall-related deaths in construction involves ladders. Ladder safety should be practiced throughout the year and not only during the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction.
Earlier this year, in March, a worker lost his life while working near the France Pavilion at the Epcot Center, located in the Walt Disney World Resort. Another construction workers accident, this time in California, claimed a second life on a Disney property on a recent Thursday. This time, the Anaheim paramedics that had to rush to Disneyland in response to a workplace accident.
Despite the emphasis programs for trench safety run by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, lives continue to be lost in cave-ins. The Los Angeles Fire Department recently reported one of many construction workers accidents involving the collapse of unsupported trenches. This time it claimed the life of a worker who worked in a trench at a residential property.
Federal safety authorities, along with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health remind construction company owners and their workers that trenches can be early graves because a cave-in can be deadly. Trench collapses are traumatic experiences, and those who are fortunate enough to survive could suffer severe physical and emotional damages. Hopefully, the National Trench Safety Stand Down will encourage compliance with safety standards, which might prevent tragic construction workers accidents.
A survivor of the 1971 explosion in the Sylmar Tunnel that was built to bring water to downtown Los Angeles from the California Aqueduct is now an advocate for workplace safety. He recently stated that he would not want to be a part of the construction crew involved in the planned building of a tunnel through some of California's most significant gas fields to divert water from the Sacramento River. He warns that digging around the gas wells will pose high risks of construction workers accidents.
A recent report issued by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is an example of noncompliance with prescribed safety standards. Too many preventable construction workers accidents cause severe or fatal injuries. Cal/OSHA has completed its inquiry into an incident that claimed a life in San Rafael last September.
Building sites nationwide, including California, pose an endless list of safety hazards, many of which are life-threatening. One of the primary causes of fatal construction workers accidents is workers falling from higher levels. The Center for Construction Research and Training recently reported concern over the number of lives lost in elevator-related accidents.
Construction company owners in California are typically responsible for the health and safety of hundreds of workers with a wide range of competency and training levels. Along with compliance with prescribed safety standards, the only way to limit construction workers accidents is by drafting a site-specific safety plan to outline potential safety risks and the manners in which they will be managed. Each project is unique, and hazard assessments are crucial before work commences.
Employers in all industries in California must inform their workers of all the potential health and safety risks they might encounter. While safety training could teach workers how to mitigate hazards that typically cause construction workers accidents, many may not be aware of the dangers posed by asbestos. Whenever they work on buildings that date back to the 1970s and earlier, construction workers are sure to be exposed to asbestos.