Lives are lost on job sites across California every day. Safety authorities maintain that most construction workers’ accidents are preventable — all it takes is compliance with prescribed safety standards. To create awareness and promote compliance, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, along with other organizations, dedicate one week to safe trenching in June each year.
Because the primary hazard when it comes to trenches is collapsing walls, workers must never enter unprotected trenches. A competent person must analyze the soil type, possible water accumulation, air quality, and other aspects before ordering the applicable protection method. Sloping the embankment of the excavation is the most straightforward protection method, but only if the soil is suitable.
Another method to prevent cave-ins is benching the sides of the trench into steps. The third method is to support the walls by using a trench box that encloses the workers or by supporting the walls with posts, beans, planking, hydraulic jacks and other materials. Further essential precautions include depositing spoils at least two feet away from the edges of the trench and providing ladders or other escape paths at 25-feet intervals along the trench.
Workers have the right to refuse to enter unprotected trenches. Nevertheless, those who do fall victim to construction workers’ accidents that involve trench cave-ins might find comfort in knowing that the California workers’ compensation program will have their backs. An attorney who has experience in fighting for the rights of injured workers can assist with the benefits claims process for compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages.