A construction worker was attempting to install a sewer pipe into a concrete manhole when he was killed on the job; the trench he was working in collapsed on top of him. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) fined the employer for knowingly exposing employees to excavation hazards following the fatal workplace accident. The jobsite was found to have allowed employees to work in the trench without hard hats and cave-in protection, two basic but necessary safety precautions. In addition to a lack of standard safety equipment, the defendant was also fined for failing to properly remove all employees from the trench after it showed signs of water intrusion and possible collapse.
Adding to its list of infractions, the offending company also failed to comply with OSHA’s reporting requirements that mandate companies notify OSHA within eight hours of an incident that resulted in a fatality. This tragic and preventable incident raises further questions about workplace safety and the rise of trench-related injuries and deaths in recent years brought on by employer negligence.
Increase of Excavation Hazards
Excavations are among the leading causes of serious injuries and deaths in workplace accidents. While companies are aware of the dangers associated with trench-related projects and work, jobsite precautions – such as cave-in protection – remain deficient across the country. In just a mere two-year period from 2014 to 2016, trench-related workplace deaths nearly tripled from 13 to 36. According to OSHA, any time an employee works in a trench the following measures should be taken to protect workers’ lives and maintain proper safety standards at jobsites.
Constructive steps to take to keep construction sites safer include:
The process of “sloping” or benching trench walls to prevent cave-ins is a method of excavating with sides that slope or are inclined away from the excavation to relieve pressure that could cause a cave-in. This is usually seen through horizontal cuts or benches of the sidewalls of a trench.
A shoring system prevents cave-ins and is typically made of a metal hydraulic, mechanical, or timber showing system.
Trench boxes can also be utilized to protect employees by shielding them from falling rocks, soil, and equipment or from being trapped during a cave-in. Trench boxes line the walls of a trench and create a solid barrier between the workers and trench walls.
Houston Work Accident Attorneys
The implementation and enforcement of safety measures such as sloping, shoring, and shielding during trench-related work saves workers lives. Unnecessary tragedies can be preventable when employers take responsibility for workers’ safety and follow federal laws governing the workplace environment. No employee should have to worry if each shift will be his or her last due to the negligence of an employer.
If you or a loved one was seriously injured or killed in a workplace accident, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and the pain and suffering incurred as a result of the tragedy. There is limited time to act following your accident; contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.