In Texas and throughout the US, cave-ins, also called trench collapses, at construction sites have killed dozens of workers and resulted in hundreds of injuries yearly. It is no surprise, therefore, that trenching and excavation work is one of the most perilous construction projects. Here are some points to help keep construction workers safe as they work at excavation worksites.
While the most dangerous and deadly risks at excavation construction sites are cave-ins, workers can also be severely injured via falling loads, falls, incidents with mobile equipment and hazardous atmospheres. Therefore, employers are required to ensure that any unstable trench that has a depth of five feet or more has a protective system to keep their employees safe. Trenching that is 20 feet or more deep must have a professionally designed protective system or have the approval from a registered professional engineer.
Construction site employers are also required to carry out daily inspections of their trenches before allowing any employee to enter them. There must be one person trained to identify and predict any potential hazards or conditions that could be unsafe for employees, according to standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Once these dangers are identified, the appointed individual must have the authority to promptly correct, control or eliminate any existing dangers.
Employers are also required to make sure that each area excavated has ramps, steps, ladders or other ways whereby workers can exit trenches four feet or deeper. These safety items should not be more than 25 feet from where the employees are working.
People who cannot return to work because of a workplace injury may apply for workers' compensation benefits, which pay for a percentage of their lost wages and medical expenses related to their injuries. Many injured workers consult an attorney to help ensure that they are receiving their due benefits.