According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 25 construction workers die in cave-ins nationwide each year. Safety authorities say trench collapses in Arizona and other states are preventable when prescribed safety guidelines are followed. The prevalence of construction accidents with trench-related injuries and fatalities has led to the program that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration undertook nationally to step up safety enforcement and create awareness of trench hazards nationwide.
Although this program led to fewer trench-related incidents, repeated episodes of noncompliance with safety standards continue to occur. Although the most significant hazard of excavations and trenches is a collapse, many other dangers must also be mitigated. However, the primary task before sending workers into a trench is soil analysis, on which safety procedures will be based.
No trench should be without appropriate protection to prevent walls collapsing, such as shoring, benching or sloping. Other hazards include the proximity to vehicular traffic, and the locations of underground utility lines like electricity, water and gas lines. The presence of natural gas also poses risks, and even overhead power lines must be avoided. Working with heavy equipment and handling materials by hand too close to the edge of a trench cause additional cave-in hazards.
It is crucial for employers and employees to avoid complacency when it comes to trench work. Even if no adverse incident has occurred for many years, the risks remain significant. Anyone in Arizona who suffers a trench-related injury can rely on the state-regulated workers' compensation insurance to cover medical expenses and lost wages. An experienced workers' comp attorney can assist with the claims process. Surviving family members of workers who lose their lives in construction accidents can pursue recovery of death benefits.