Trench And Excavation Collapse Lawyers
Trench and excavation collapses are a very real danger on construction sites. In fact, trench and excavation collapses are one of the most common ways that construction workers are injured and killed. When a trench collapses, a worker in the vicinity of the collapse can become buried or crushed by the large amounts of dirt or debris. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has reported that there is an estimated 1,000 annual trench collapses of which 50-100 workers are killed. An average of 54 workers were killed in trench collapses each year between 1992 and 2001.
General Contractors and Construction Site Managers are required by OSHA compliance to ensure that all trenching and excavating is done with all precautions and safety measures in place to prevent accidents and injuries to workers. However, some General Contractors and Construction Site Managers cut corners and do not follow all OSHA requirements. These Contractors and Managers will look to cut corners in the interest of making the job more lucrative at the expense of the safety of its employees. Even though a General Contractor or Construction Site Manager will cut corners in the interest of saving time and money, the costs associated with a trench collapse will erase that effort. Costs associated with a trench collapse include work stoppage, attempted rescue, body recovery, and replacing dead or injured workers. There are also fines that OSHA can charge the Contractor or Manager for not following the proper safety guidelines.
There are four main types of trench collapses: The Spoil pile Slide, Shear Wall Collapse, Belly Slough, and Lip Slide. In a Spoil Slide, the dirt that is removed from the hole is piled too close to the trench itself. The dirt removed ends up falling back into the hole and potentially crushing the workers below. A Shear Wall Collapse occurs when the top portion of the newly carved-out wall collapses. According to the NIOSH, this can put an average of two to three yards of soil onto the worker weighing approximately over 5,000 pounds.
A Belly Slough is similar to a Shear Wall Collapse however the middle portion of the wall collapses. These collapses usually occur in areas around underground utilities or where running water is present. The Lip Slide is also similar to the Shear Wall Collapse however is considered to be less serious. This is because only a portion of the top wall collapses onto the worker. This again occurs because the Spoil Pile is too close to the trench causing the upper portion of the newly formed wall to collapse.
All employers and workers must be aware of the methods that should be taken to ensure the safety of trenches and excavations. There are four techniques used to make trenches safe and prevent accidents, injuries, and lawsuits. The first technique used is called Sloping. This is when the walls of the hole are carved out on a slope preventing any type of collapse from the top. The second type of technique used to make trenching safer is called Benching. Benching is very similar to Sloping but includes carving out a series of horizontal steps usually with vertical or near-vertical surfaces between levels.
The third safety technique used in trenching is called Shoring. Shoring is when panels are placed again the walls of the trench and are held in place by a hydraulic pump making a collapse highly unlikely by holding back the dirt on both sides. The final technique used to create trenches safely is by Shielding. Shielding is very similar to Shoring. A shield is actually created out of two heavy pieces of steel or aluminum and virtually builds a skeleton structure that is placed inside the trench. The function of this shield is the same as in Shoring. This holds back the dirt from both sides and maintains stability and safety for the workers in the environment.
There are too many examples in the tri-state area of workers injured or killed in trench and excavation collapses. A worker was killed on a Brooklyn construction site when he was crushed by a trench collapse. The owner of the site has been brought up on manslaughter charges due to safety negligence. In 2007, a New Jersey worker broke his leg when the trench he was working in collapsed on an Essex County construction site. OSHA sited a construction company in Pennsylvania for an unprotected trench when two men died from a trench collapse in 1996. Trench collapses in New Jersey and the rest of the United States are too prevalent. If you or someone you know has been involved in a trench or excavation collapse, feel free to contact our experienced accident and injury lawyers at Keefe Law Firm to understand your rights under the law.