According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers across the state of Pennsylvania often ignore some known dangers of working in a trench environment. Analysis of OSHA’s data indicates that approximately 70 percent of inspections handled by the agency during the past eight years of sites involved in sewer or water line construction included one or more violations related to trench safety.
The dangers aren’t just academic and statistical in nature, either. In May 2015, a worker was injured when trench walls collapsed and partially buried him. According to investigation reports, the man was originally working in part of the trench that was protected by steel barriers. He reportedly asked his supervisor if he could move out of the protected area to check something on a pipe.
Reports indicate that the supervisor told the man to leave the box to perform the function, but to hurry as he did so. The man suffered dislocations to the shoulder and hip, a broken pelvis and two shattered ribs after being caught in the collapse.
This collapse wasn’t an isolated incident. In one Pennsylvania city alone, three trench collapses occurred in 2015. One of those collapses killed a worker.
Employers say that OSHA’s safety standards regarding trenches are complicated and sometimes difficult to meet. Even so, employers dealing with such sites do have an obligation to protect workers as best they can. Workers can also take charge of their own safety by following safe protocols, but that doesn’t mean accidents won’t ever happen. If you are injured in a trench accident in the workplace, then you are probably eligible for compensation through a workers’ compensation plan.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Do firms neglect trench dangers?,” Daniel Moore, May 08, 2016