Construction accidents happen every year, some specific accidents taking more lives than other types of accidents. For instance, excavation and trenching are among some of the most hazardous operations in a construction zone, posing many risks to the workers who go about their daily lives in this line of work. Underground construction poses many risks and hazards that can lead to extremely serious injuries as well as fatalities. Here are some of the biggest issues:
- Cave-ins, which pose a tremendous risk as well as cover most of the injuries and fatalities in trenches
- Falling loads that come into the trench
- Hazardous atmospheres
- Hazards caused by mobile equipment
Hazards in Trenches
There have been many reports of accidents that occur in trenches, being one of the most dangerous environments in all the construction industry. For instance, a subcontractor in Texas was attempting to connect power to a water tower under construction when the wall of the 15-foot trench collapsed. This covered his body in mud and killed him instantly just from the weight alone, which is one of the biggest risks in these trenches. The ground was found to be saturated after the incident and workers had to set up new support walls in the trench just to extricate the body, which took five hours to recover. What was the cause of this accident? It was believed that it could have been prevented if proper cave-in protections were taken.
In another 2006 incident that led to a fatality, an OSHA fine resulted in $78,100. The Department of Justice even considered pressing charges for the accident! In the end, the case reached a plea agreement including acknowledgement that the contractor accepted that the conduct was criminal and he received a whopping fine as well as community service requirements. The fact is this: Since these accidents can be prevented and nobody should ever die within a trench for a preventable accident, criminal charges can result.
According to the OSHA, the fatality rate for excavation is 112% higher than the rate for general construction. Collapses pose such a huge risk due to the fact that a victim doesn’t actually need to be completely covered in soil to die. Just from a partial covering, a victim may be asphyxiated from the pressure. The weight of dirt can be as much as 3,000 pounds per cubic yard, which means compression of the chest could cause immediate death. If a worker is rescued from these conditions, they may eventually die from their injuries anyway, as they could experience something known as “compartment syndrome.” This could lead to necrosis of the leg muscles that eventually changes the blood’s pH level.
If this is not cause for alarm enough, there are many more workers who will die from being exposed to toxic fumes as well as electrocution or explosions from contact with underground utilities. The point is: There should be protective systems guaranteed to each worker as well as constant inspections to the trench and said systems.
Employer Prevention of Hitting Underground Utility Lines and Pipes
Hitting utility lines and pipes in construction work can lead to very adverse effects. Here are some precautions that all employers must follow:
- Employers should always consider the location of utility installations like sewage, telephone, fuel, electric, and water lines and wires. You can also contact the 811 “Call Before You Dig” number for these installations.
- If the utility companies cannot establish the exact location of the utility installations, then employers should proceed with caution. This may include using detection equipment or other acceptable means to locate these installations.
- Ensure that underground installations are protected and supported as necessary to safeguard workers while excavation is open.
OSHA is constantly inspecting workplaces to make sure that precautions are being used to prevent injury. For instance, in 2004, OSHA inspected more than 2,000 trench sites. It was found that an astounding 88% of these sites lacked a protective system! 4,000 citations were given when they found that precautions were being ignored. Some states go as far as requiring all employees working at these serious and dangerous worksites to complete OSHA training in a 10-hour program that will help them understand the ins and outs of the trade and how to go about it safely. On top of this, inspections are constantly being conducted to make sure that rules and regulations are abided by!
Common Reasons Why Accidents Occur and Safety is Ignored
- Putting too little attention toward these serious projects when they are actually very dangerous and intensive can lead to hazards. With both workers and employers understanding the work that needs completed, the standards that must be abided by, and the attitude they will need to complete the job, the outcome will be greater.
- Do the employees understand all aspects of construction, including how to work safely in a trench? Only those properly trained should be entering these dangerous trenches and grasping a greater understanding of the work that needs done.
- Sometimes, enforcement is insufficient. All employers should feel motivated by what they have read and seen on videos and in training and safety manuals written by OSHA.
- Cost is put before safety. Contractors often times believe that the costs of protective equipment, transportation, installation, and storage are too excessive and will affect company profits. They may cut corners when it comes to safety, which will only spell danger.
Who is Liable for My Electrical or Trench-Related Construction Accident?
What happens to an employer who chooses profits over people? What if an employer has cut corners and failed to put a surrounding wall in a trench before sending in workers to get the job done quickly? What if the dirt caves in and crushes the worker? There are many options to consider. It is negligence when an employer causes a worker to become injured or even die at their own hands. OSHA, local authorities, and the employer may conduct many investigations when an incident like this has happened to assure that precautions were being abided by. Any party who has become injured by a trench accident can start an investigation that will look into all matters of liability.
When you are looking for an attorney with construction experience, there is no one better for the job than your attorneys at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi. We will work with you to help you gain compensation that you deserve for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Furthermore, we will work to make sure that the liable party responsible for your accident does not cause harm to future plaintiffs through their own negligence. Call us today to find out more about what you can do after you have been injured.