Many people work in fields that require trenching or excavation work, including excavation for the construction of power and communications lines and for laying sewer and other types of pipes. One of the risks involved with such work is the danger posed by sudden cave-ins of the trench. Cave-ins may cause catastrophic injury or death to workers caught in the collapse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 64 percent of deaths due to these types of cave-ins happened in trenches that were under 10 feet deep. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers who are using trenches at a depth of more than five feet to have wall protection in place. A cubic yard of dirt may weigh as much as 3,000 pounds, thus having the potential to crush and suffocate workers in a collapse.
Recommended wall protection systems include sloping or benching the ground, using hydraulic jacks or planks to shore up the walls or using trench shielding systems installed by people who are trained to do so. Different factors, such as the soil’s composition, environmental conditions and the location of trenches in relation to other excavated areas, will influence the distance between support planks. Workers should refrain from working in trenches that do not have the necessary protection in place.
Trench cave-ins can lead to catastrophic workplace injuries for those who are trapped in the falling dirt. A worker who is in injured in this type of an accident may want to file for workers’ compensation benefits. All employers are mandated to provide such coverage in order to protect the employees that work for them. An attorney who has experience in this area can provide assistance throughout the process.