Last month a trench collapsed at a Staten Island construction site, killing a 29-year-old worker. The worker was helping to replace a pipe in a six foot deep trench when the sides gave way, burying him inside the trench. A preliminary investigation of the construction site tragedy indicated that the trench lacked necessary wood bracing.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, excavation and trenching are extremely hazardous to construction workers. Collapse poses the most risk because trenching accidents involve a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm. However, trench collapses may be avoided by properly following safety requirements.
According to NYC guidelines for safe trench excavations, any trench deeper than five feet must be reinforced in one of a number of ways, including a cut-step excavation, a sloped excavation, the installation of hydraulic or other horizontal bracings, or the installation of a trench box. In addition to the NYC guidelines for safe trench excavations, OSHA has strict safety standards for the construction and maintenance of construction site trenches. OSHA mandates that trenches must not only be securely shored, but employers must also provide a way for employees to escape in the event of a cave-in. If construction companies do not implement these mandates properly, the workers are at risk of digging their own graves.
The fatality rate for excavation (trenching) work is 112% higher than the rate for general construction. Due to the danger involved with trench work and the serious hazard it presents, excavations are now part of OSHA’s national emphasis program. Although OSHA strongly rebukes and heavily fines construction companies for safety violations, unsafe trenching practices still persist.
For example, OSHA fined one pipeline company $47,750 for exposing its workers to a trenching hazard. A trench box, which would have protected the workers, was 100 feet from the excavation trench. In another case, an OSHA inspector ordered a worker to get out of an unsafe roadside trench. Thirty seconds after the employee climbed out of the trench, it collapsed.
Construction workers seriously injured or killed due to negligent or unsafe trenching practices may seek legal remedies. An experienced personal injury attorney, specializing in New York City construction accidents, can help workers and their families seek the maximum recovery for pain, suffering or death, unpaid medical expenses and any lost income resulting from the accident. In addition and just as important, the attorney will help resolve the worker’s medical and financial issues by assisting the injured worker in obtaining all the worker’s medical and lost wages benefits he or she may be entitled to.