Trench Safety at Work Can Reduce the Number of Employee Injuries and Deaths at North Carolina Construction Sites

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released new educational material to help educate employers and workers on working safely in and around trenches.

Our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers in Asheville and elsewhere know that in the construction industry, unprotected trenches kill a significant number of workers every year. In fact, since 2003 there have been hundreds of workers seriously injured in trench cave-ins and at least 200 fatalities. 1175312_a_wheelbarrow_on_a_field.jpg

A spokesperson for OSHA said the three guidance documents came from a growing concern about repeated violations regarding trench safety by employers. These documents provide a step by step approach that employers can follow in order to protect their workers. Trench cave-ins are totally preventable, no worker should suffer the fate of being crushed to death or buried alive due to an unprotected trench.

Let’s take a closer look at the 3 new guidance publications:

Trenching and Excavation fact sheet reminds us that two workers die every month from a trench collapse in the United States. Any trench that is deeper than 4 feet must have some safe device for the workers to get in and out. These devices can be ladders, ramps or steps and they have to be located near the workers (within 25 feet). Trenches deeper than 5 feet must have some form of protective safety system. Trenches that are deeper than 20 feet need to have a professional engineer design the protective system. The document reviews the four different protective systems: benching, sloping, shoring and shielding.

Working Safely in Trenches is written in both English and Spanish and shows diagrams of the different cave-in protection methods. It mentions that materials used for shoring a trench can be beams, planks, hydraulic jacks and posts. And a trench box is used for the shielding method of trench protection. The document reminds workers that no equipment or excavation debris should be within 2 feet of the trenches edge. The top of ladders used in the trenches should stick out above the trench at least 3 feet. Trenches must be inspected daily especially if there has been a change in weather.

The Do Not Enter an Unprotected Trench poster shows the shocking image of two workers in an unprotected trench with the caption “An Unprotected Trench is an Early Grave.” It also includes the fact that a cubic yard of dirt can weigh as much as a car.

Due to the severity of trenching hazards, OSHA performs a Special Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavations. This program entitles compliance officers to inspect any trench they come across and remove workers from unprotected trenches immediately. Recently this happened on two different sites just prior to the trenches collapsing.

If you or a family member has been injured in a trench accident or construction accident or are trying to handle a workers’ compensation or disability claim on your own, contact the Lee Law Offices, P.A. today for help and a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965.

More Blog Entries:
Nail Guns a Dangerous Tool Used at North Carolina Construction Sites Injuring Workers on the Job, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, October 10, 2011.

Work Site Safety Inspections Important in Reducing Work Injuries in Charlotte, Asheville, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, September 27, 2011.

Contact Information