Trenching: Summary

Trenching is one of the most dangerous aspects of construction work. It is used to excavate ground for electrical wiring, plumbing and for other reasons results in construction site accidents that claim on average two lives a month. Without the proper planning, safeguards and inspection, these trenches can easily collapse and kill or maim workers. Job site injury claims for wrongful death in trenching accidents can amount to millions of dollars in compensatory and sometimes even punitive damages.

Trenching And Safety

There are many safety methods that should be in place when trenching large amounts of dirt. A shield (or trench box, as it is more commonly known) is used to protect a worker in the case of a cave-in. Job site injury can occur when management fails to exactly follow tabulated data in reference to the trench box. For example, if the voids between the trench box and walls of dirt are not filled, a cave-in could move the trench box and instantaneously cause a crushing hazard. Sloping and benching are other methods used to prevent job site accidents. Sloping and benching are methods of removing the dirt walls at an angle to greatly reduce the risk of collapse. They are less commonly used because of space constraints in typical construction sites, such as utilities or traffic. It is absolutely necessary that all guidelines be followed when trenching to prevent an increase in construction site claims. The following need to be examined before safely trenching to prevent construction accidents:

  • Proper evaluation of soil conditions
  • Safe access inside and out of the excavation
  • Daily inspection of job-site, especially if it rains or hazardous conditions arise
  • Inspection of ventilation

These are a few of the basic precautions that need be taken before allowing workers into a trench. Otherwise, serious injury or death can occur. The fatality risk for trenching work is 112% higher than normal construction work. That risk increases exponentially if safety standards are not met before putting workers in hazardous conditions.

The base standard for trench inspection is a ‘competent person’ that looks over the site before allowing workers into the trench. That is loosely defined as a person that can identify hazards and dangerous working conditions to prevent injury. With such dangerous working conditions, the competency of that individual is imperative. Otherwise, work site injuries will proliferate.

About Trenching Safety Standards

State and federal safety standards must be rigorously followed in order for trench work to be a viable construction option. Inspection should be, but often is not, virtually constant throughout the process; ramps or other means of egress out of the trench are absolutely necessary, and soil analysis should be performed before trenches are dug. Very frequent inspections are necessary to deal with constantly changing conditions that can include precipitation, the presence of heavy equipment adjacent to the trench, equipment breakdown and vibration of nearby machinery.

Construction accidents are almost always completely avoidable. Proper maintenance and inspection by competent persons, who are willing to take the necessary time and make the necessary effort to ensure a safe workplace, will prevent serious injury and death due to trench collapse.

Do You Have a Claim?

If you have been injured in a job site or construction accident, or an accident involving trenching, Charnas Law Firm, P.C. offers a free review of your case to determine if you may have a claim, according to the laws in your state. Scott Charnas has lectured to other lawyers on the subject of handling trench collapse cases, and has valuable experience in this area of litigation.

Please submit an inquiry to get started with your free case review!