Trench safety has been identified as a major priority to protect the safety of construction workers in Missouri and across the country according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Construction workers frequently encounter dangerous or difficult conditions on the job, but laboring in trenches and excavation sites can pose a particularly high risk of serious workplace accidents. The risks associated with unfinished structures, heavy equipment and intense physical labor are intensified when dealing with depressions and cavities underground.
In particular, trenches and excavations created through the removal of vast quantities of earth, stone and other filler pose ongoing risks for collapses, falls, equipment failures or cave-ins. Around two workers have been killed every month since 2011 due to cave-ins in trenches on construction sites, but in 2016, the number of fatalities due to workplace accidents in excavations doubled that average, which had remained steady for five years. In response to the apparently growing danger to construction workers, OSHA is working to raise awareness of actions that employers can take to prevent trench accidents before they happen.
In particular, OSHA notes the importance of proper protective equipment in readying a trench for work. For excavations with a depth of at least 5 feet, protective systems are a requirement under federal safety guidelines. A professional engineer must be consulted to handle protective gear for trenches that are 20 feet deep or more. In addition, trenches must contain exit mechanisms like ladders, ramps or steps.
Injuries and accidents can happen to construction workers dealing with trenches but also to office workers. Employees who are hurt in an on-the-job accident have a right to pursue compensation. A workers compensation lawyer may advise and represent injured employees in seeking recompense for their losses as well as damages for violations of federal safety rules.