Almost all phases of the construction industry, at some points, involve the digging of trenches, whether it is to bury water, electrical lines, cables or other reasons. Unfortunately, trenches can and do collapse without warning.
That can put you at a greatly enhanced risk of serious injury or death if you are the one working inside of the trench. Below is some important information to keep in mind about the dangers of a trench collapse.
Trench collapse deaths are on the rise
The past two years — 2019 and 2020 — tied for the second-highest number of trench collapse fatalities in the United States from the years 2003 to 2020. The year with the most deaths in that manner was 2016, when 33 manual laborers died under the weight of the heavy earth inside a trench. There were a total of 21 trench collapse fatalities reported in both 2019 and 2020.
According to the Center for Construction Research and Training and reported by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), most of the deaths are due to inadequate protection from cave-ins. This can be interpreted as not properly shielding, sloping and shoring of the trench boxes in which the laborers were working.
Safety begins with prevention
Daily inspections can do much to prevent trench collapse injuries and deaths. Ensuring that there is no heavy equipment or materials placed within two feet of the edge of the excavation will keep the surface area more stable and less likely to collapse.
Also, there needs to be a secure way for workers to quickly climb out of the trench at the first signs of instability. A ladder located several yards away is useless when seconds mean lives lost.
Were you injured or did you lose a loved one in a trench collapse?
While nothing will replace a lost loved one after a trench collapse injures or kills a worker, the injured worker or their survivors can seek civil justice. Working with an experienced advocate can make it easier to understand your options for compensation and support.