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Working in the trenches: How dangerous is it?

Construction workers may find themselves working in or around trenches on the job site. For them, it might be just another day at work, but trench work and excavation can be some of the deadliest operations on a construction site.

The greatest risk is cave-ins, which lead to the most deaths involving excavations and trenching. Every year, hundreds of construction workers are injured in trench collapses and dozens more die.

Below are some tips from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for construction workers to remain safer in their trench and excavation duties.

  • Never enter unprotected trenches. All trenches that are five feet deep or more must have protective shoring around the perimeter unless stable rocks are all that is being excavated.
  • Use the right protective system. Sloping, shoring and shielding can all avert cave-ins, but it's important to implement the right system that accounts for factors like the classification of the soil, depth of the cut, the soil's water content, etc.
  • Protect access and egress. Under OSHA guidelines, there must be a means of exit for all trench workers that's located within 25 feet of them.
  • Don't allow heavy equipment near trenches. The weight of the equipment could cause a trench to collapse on the workers.

If you are a California construction worker who was injured in a trench collapse, your injuries may be life-threatening and disabling. It's important that you seek the legal, medical and financial assistance to which you are entitled under the workers' compensation system. Should that fail to bring your recourse, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit against the negligent employer who allowed the unsafe conditions to occur.

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