Minnesota workers who have jobs that require them to work in trenches or other excavated areas may want to be aware that a cubic yard of dirt may weigh in excess of 3,000 pounds. This is enough weight to cause a worker fatality through crushing or suffocation. In the 10 years from 2000 through 2009, there were 350 deaths in the U.S. caused by cave-ins and the majority of these deaths were at depths of less than 10 feet. These types of fatal accidents, however, are preventable.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has produced requirements that one of several methods reinforce excavations 5 feet and deeper. They include benching the ground, sloping the ground or supporting the trench with planks, hydraulic jacks or a trench box. Workers should be aware of this requirement and never enter a trench that has not been sufficiently reinforced by a competent worker.
Safety equipment for workers and safe workplace standards and education can also provide benefit for protecting workers where trenching or excavation is required. An attitude of safety for all workers from planning phases to completion and cleanup encouraged by top levels of management has demonstrated positive results.
Not all trenching failures result in fatalities, but when a construction or utility worker has been injured or has died due to a work accident, an attorney may be able to assist the worker and his or her family. The attorney may be able to ensure that the family receives the medical support and financial compensation to which it is entitled. This support may help the worker through recovery and rehabilitation until he or she is able to return to work.