The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued an updated Quick Card and a public service announcement video to increase awareness of trenching safety. These actions were taken in response to a sharp increase in trench-related deaths. According to OSHA, 23 workers were killed in trench accidents in 2016. This is twice as many deaths as 2014 and 2015 combined.
What is Trenching?
A trench is considered to be any excavation made below ground that is deeper than it is wide, up to a maximum width of 15 feet. Trenching and excavation operations are common features in New York City construction projects. In order to lay pipes, wires, or cables underground, construction workers must excavate large trenches. New York state and federal laws and regulations govern trenching and require that the operations be done in a safe manner.
How Can Trench Accidents be Prevented?
The excavation of trenches is one of the most dangerous activities on a construction site. Trenching accidents usually involve trench cave-ins or workers falling into open trenches. Other potential dangers include falling loads, hazardous atmospheres (the presence of flammable gases or other contaminants), and incidents involving the pieces of equipment that excavate trenches. Trench accidents can be prevented by using proper safety techniques including:
- The use of proper protective systems for trenches deeper than 5 feet
- The use of a protective system designed by an engineer for trenches deeper than 20 feet
- Inspecting trenching protective systems regularly
- Having a competent person inspect the trench on a daily basis and after rainstorms or other water intrusions
- Keeping heavy equipment away from trench edges
- Being aware of sources that may indicate trench instability
- Locating underground utilities before digging
- Making sure workers aren’t working under suspended loads
- Ensuring that there are appropriate ingress and egress areas for trenching equipment
- Providing adequate ladders, stairways, and ramps for workers to enter and exit trenches
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you or a loved one was injured in a trenching accident, you should have an experienced personal injury attorney evaluate your case. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience helping injured New Yorkers. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se habla español.