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Cracking down on unsafe practices in construction

Trench workers in Texas perform one of the most hazardous jobs in the construction industry. Fatal trenching accidents more than doubled in 2016, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that employers need to comply with safety standards to lower those numbers and make trench work safer.

A trench collapse that happened in April 2015 resulted in the death of a worker and the conviction of a general contractor on charges of manslaughter. After the conviction, a task force was formed by an attorney in Manhattan to investigate corruption and safety issues in the construction industry.

Legislation also came about in Boston after a trench collapse killed two workers. Criminal charges were filed against the contractor in that case. Later, it was discovered that the contractor had previous safety violations and unpaid OSHA fines. Contractors in Boston must now submit their safety histories when putting in for a building permit.

The problem, according to some safety experts, is putting production ahead of safety. While OSHA does not specifically require supervisors at hazardous job sites, one safety manager in Texas says that there should be supervisors at all times and companies should make sure their workers understand safety procedures.

Workers who are covered by workers' compensation can file a claim even if the accident was their own fault. Workers' compensation is no-fault insurance, so even if the accident was the employer's fault, there is no guarantee of the case being decided in the worker's favor. Filing a personal injury or wrongful death suit against an employer is another option, but the right to do so is waived if a workers' compensation claim is filed.

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