Fox & Farley, Attorneys at Law

The dangers of trench and excavation work

Trench cave-ins are a serious concern for workers in Tennessee who are involved in excavation work or pipeline, sewer and power-line construction. A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that cave-ins during trenching or excavation work resulted in 350 deaths between 2000 and 2009. Another study found that 64 percent of fatal cave-ins involved trenches that were less than 10 feet deep.

Deaths and injuries from trench cave-ins can be prevented if safety measures are in place before workers enter the trench. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that employers use some type of protective system when they are in charge of an excavation site that is at least 5 feet deep. Some of the possible options for a protective system include shoring the trench, sloping the ground or building a trench box.

When protective systems are not in place at an excavation site, the dirt walls of a trench can cave in on workers without warning. A worker can be fatally crushed or suffocated by a single cubic yard of dirt. Smaller pieces of dirt can also cause trench workers to suffer from serious workplace injuries. Because environmental conditions and soil type are major factors in the possibility of trench cave-ins, the CDC recommends that the soil be evaluated for stability.

Workers who are injured in a trench cave-in may apply for workers’ compensation benefits to help them cover medical costs and lost working days. If a worker dies in one of these kinds of accidents, the worker’s surviving family members may file a claim on the worker’s behalf in order to seek workers’ compensation death benefits.

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