Hazards of Excavation and Trenching

Trench work presents a serious danger right here in Dallas. Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations in the United States, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year. In fact, OSHA reported that trench collapse deaths more than doubled in 2016.

How Trench Collapses Happen

Trenches by definition are narrow and deep, and are often made up of soil. These qualities mean that trenches are susceptible to changes in the environment, and can easily collapse without protective measures in place. Rain, for example, can soak into the soil and increase its weight, putting more pressure on the trench walls, resulting in a collapse.

In July 2017, a construction worker was trapped in a trench on a construction site at Far North Dallas country club. It took paramedics and rescue workers over two hours to free him (Dallas News). Although he was responsive, the man was airlifted to the local hospital after his rescue.

A few years earlier, another Dallas construction worker was less fortunate. A trench dug for the North Texas water line collapsed, killing the worker (NBCDFW).

Common Trench Collapse Accident Injuries

Workers involved in a trench collapse usually suffer from crush and suffocation injuries due to the weight of the soil. Damage related to crush injuries includes bleeding, bruising, muscle swelling, and broken bones. Suffocation will eventually kill victims, and even if it doesn’t, the lack of oxygen to the brain can cause serious injuries. Even as little as four minutes can cause lifelong brain damage.

Protecting Against Trench Collapses

OSHA’s fact sheet details safety recommendations to prevent trench collapses. Here are some of its most important takeaways for employers and workers:

  • Do not enter an unprotected trench. Trenches five feet deep or greater require a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely of stable rock.
  • Employ protective systems. These systems turn trenches from dangerous to relatively safe work environments. Different types of protective systems include sloping, shoring, and shielding.
  • Inspect trenches daily. An inspection needs to be completed by a competent person – someone who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards or dangerous working conditions. Employers need to ensure that such a person is available any time the trench is about to be worked in.
  • Use safe access tools, like ladders, steps, and ramps, to assist construction workers in getting in and out of the trench.

After a Trench Collapse, Contact a Dallas Construction Attorney

If you or a family member suffered injuries from a trench collapse at a construction site, the general contractor may be liable in a court of law. If the general contractor or others in control of the jobsite violated any OSHA safety regulations when the injury occurred, that violation will help support your injury claim against them.

OSHA considers trench collapses almost entirely preventable with safety precautions in place, so it’s taken seriously when a construction company fails to prevent collapses. In Seattle in 2018, a construction company whose worker died in a trench collapse was hit not only with monetary punishment, but also with a felony manslaughter charge (Seattle Times).

To speak to an experienced Dallas personal injury lawyer about your case, please call Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP at (214) 231-0544. Your consultation is free, and we will let you know if you have a strong claim that can move forward. We have extensive experience with all aspects of construction accident cases.

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