Construction workers and those in heavy industry can struggle with dangerous job environments during nearly every shift. In general, workers are given safety instructions and proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for safety warnings to amount to nothing more than lip service. Without the knowledge necessary to safely complete a task, workers face serious injuries in countless situations throughout the day.

Excavation and trenching are among the most dangerous of all construction operations. These structures, inadequately designed and constructed, can result in falls, hazardous atmospheres or trench collapse. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year.

What can workers do to protect themselves?

Unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock, trenches that are five feet deep or greater require a protective system to ensure safety and stability. Based on factors unique to the excavation, protective systems can include:

  • Sloping: Cutting the trench wall back at an angle inclined away from the excavation.
  • Shoring: Installing a support (hydraulic or otherwise) designed to prevent soil movement.
  • Shielding: Using a “trench box” that lines the walls of the excavation to protect workers from cave-ins or collapse.

The design and implementation of an effective protective system can rely on numerous factors such as the soil classification, depth, weather and the water content of the soil.

Additionally, OSHA requires that all excavations must have egress options within 25 feet of all workers at all times. These access points can include steps, ladders, ramps or other safe, approved means of entry and exit. If you were injured on the job, don’t hesitate to discuss your situation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.