According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the average number of trench-related workplace fatalities nationwide each year is 54. While OSHA provides guidelines and safety standards to prevent cave-ins, significant numbers of workers’ compensation benefits claims involving trench accidents are filed in Florida and elsewhere each year. Safety authorities stress that compliance with safety standards could prevent excavation and trench accidents.
The most significant safety hazard in excavations involves collapsing trench walls. Safety regulations state that qualified professionals must assess and examine the soil and order the implementation of slopes, shields or supports to prevent cave-ins. Excavations must be inspected before each shift because rain and other weather events can render a trench unsafe. The same applies to possible hazardous atmospheres and the accumulation of water.
Barricades can prevent workers or equipment from falling into a trench, and trench work must not be done underneath raised loads. Mobile equipment operators may need flaggers to prevent them from coming too close to trenches and compromise the stability of the trench walls. Utility lines must be identified and clearly marked to avoid hitting them. This is typically done by calling the local 811 agency to arrange for utility companies to indicate the positions of utility lines.
Florida construction workers have every right to refuse to work in unsafe trenches. Those who are victims of trench-related accidents will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. A Florida attorney with experience in this field of the law can be a valuable asset in the corner of any injured worker. Benefits typically cover medical expenses and lost wages, and those whose injuries cause permanent disabilities might be awarded additional benefits.