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According to the CDC, some of the most dangerous construction work you can do involves excavation and trenching. Not only are there risks of cave-ins, there are also the hazards of working alongside heavy equipment such as backhoes and hydraulic excavators. Roughly 100 workers are killed and 1,000 are injured every year in excavation and trenching accidents. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2000 and 2006, 271 workers died in cave-ins.
Asphyxiation or injuries caused by crushing are the usual reasons for cave-in fatalities. A cubic yard of dirt can weigh as much as a large car—well over a ton. Fatalities where heavy equipment is in use often result from being struck by the equipment’s bucket, from a quick-detachable bucket coming off, or from hitting power lines with the bucket.
Sixty-eight percent of fatalities occurred in companies that employ fewer than 50 workers, and 46 percent were in companies of ten or fewer workers. So it is on the small jobs that you might need to be most watchful of safety violations.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls most trenching deaths preventable. The common themes tend to be inadequate protective and safety measures and little to no training for those called upon to do the work.
Here are examples of actual trenching fatalities:
The biggest cause of cave-ins is poor training of workers and supervisors. In such cases, safety regulations and standard good practices are often ignored. Operations are completed without the proper assessments of soil type, water in the soil, underground utilities, and other factors. Such operations tend to ignore appropriate protective systems and measures, escape ladders or ramps, faulty construction of slopes and benches, and so on.
OSHA requires that a competent person be on-site for all excavations of five feet or deeper that will hold workers. A competent person is defined as someone who is capable of recognizing hazards in the surroundings or working conditions and who has the authority to take measures to eliminate the hazards. Regular inspections of conditions and preventative systems in place should be routine.
Competence can go a long way in preventing accidents. Not having a competent person on-site can also result in large fines.
Protective systems exist to keep trenching walls from collapsing, and OSHA requires their use for trenches five feet deep or more. But there are also other, more common-sense ways to prevent injury and death on the job, including the following [source]:
Here are safety suggestions, from the CDC, for when you are working with or around excavating machinery:
There is no substitute for proper legal help when making a construction accident claim. Since 1959, the Louthian Law Firm’s work injury attorneys have helped South Carolinians win compensation for construction injuries.
We know our clients come to us during a stressful time in their lives. That’s why we promise our clients personalized service outside of court and experienced aggressive representation at the negotiation table and at trial. Call our Columbia excavation accident lawyers today toll free at (803) 454-1200 or use our online contact form to schedule a free and confidential injury consultation.