Trenching and Excavation Accidents
When it comes to construction operations, trenching and excavation are among the most dangerous.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an excavation is defined as, “any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the earth’s surface formed by earth removal.” Further, trenches are defined as narrow, underground excavations that are deeper than they are wide; no wider than 15 feet. Narrow and deep trenches are excavations that are used for installing gas lines, telephone lines, and other utilities and infrastructure.
When workers dig-out or trench part of the earth’s surface, construction workers can suffer a host of different types of accidents. They can be injured by equipment, cave-ins, falls, electrocutions, explosions, and asphyxiation.
Good safety practices, equipment, and training are crucial for preventing trenching and excavation injuries and deaths.
How Excavation Accidents Occur
Common excavation accidents that cause injuries and death include:
- Asphyxiation: Low oxygen, combined with toxic gases in a contained area, are one of the most common causes of worker illness and death due to asphyxiation.
- Cave-ins: If the “spoils,” or removed materials, are deposited too close to the opening they can fall in and collapse on workers.
- Drowning: When excavation workers damage water lines underground, they risk drowning.
- Electrocutions: Workers who erroneously excavate above utility lines or use tools that conduct electricity risk electrocution.
- Equipment and loads: Vehicles, construction equipment, and loads that are not properly restrained and set away from openings can collapse on underground workers.
- Falls: When openings are not properly secured with ramps, ladders, or stairs, workers can fall into the trench below.
Preventing Trenching and Excavation Accidents
OSHA offers clear guidelines for preventing trench and excavation accidents. For example, construction workers should never enter an unprotected trench. Trenches deeper than five feet should always be designed and approved by a registered professional engineer.
From there, protective systems should be put in place to ensure excavations are stable and fit for human entry. The three basic protective systems are:
- Sloping: This involves making certain the trench walls are at a proper angle
- Shoring: This process involves bracing the walls somehow to prevent collapses
- Shielding: These are steel or aluminum structures used to create a box to brace a trench
Which of these is employed depends upon the type of soil, depth of the cut, and water content of the material, as well as some other factors.
OSHA additionally requires a competent person to inspect excavations prior to entry, identify and eliminate hazardous conditions, and ensure worker safety.
When a Trench or Excavation Accident Occurs
The unpredictability of underground trenches and excavations makes them especially dangerous for construction workers. Even with the most proactive safety precautions and procedures, accidents still occur.
Workers who are injured in trenching or excavation accidents face not only the pain and trauma of injuries, but also the dauting costs of medical care and the loss of income during their recovery. While employers may attempt to settle quickly with injured workers, offering them standard disability payments, they should not accept without being aware of all their options. This is why having a Philadelphia construction accident lawyer from McCann & Wall, LLC on their side is important.
Construction workers who have been injured due to unsafe conditions or the negligence of a contractor, subcontractor, or other third-party can pursue additional damages.
Philadelphia Construction Accident Lawyers at McCann & Wall, LLC Protect the Rights of Workers Hurt in Trench and Excavation Accidents
If you have been injured during excavation work, you may want to contact a Philadelphia construction accident lawyer at McCann & Wall, LLC before considering any type of settlement with your employer. We will review every aspect of your case and explain your legal options for financial recovery for your injuries. We are always available to answer any questions you may have about your claim, and to explain every step in the legal process. From our offices are in Philadelphia, we represent clients in Delaware County, Chester County, throughout Pennsylvania, as well as across Delaware and New Jersey. Call 215-569-8488 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation today.