Excavation is considered one of the most hazardous construction operations that exist. Recently, on January 8th in San Antonio Texas, The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited DNT Construction of Round Rock, Texas, with several violations and safety hazards after a worker was injured from a trench collapsing. Penalties amount to approximately $89,000.
A trench excavation means a narrow excavation (in relation to its length) made below the surface of the ground. It is usually deeper than it is wide, but the width is not greater than 15 feet (OSHA fact sheet). Often workers down inside these trenches succumb to injury or death due to lack of safety measures in place.
OSHA investigated an injury a DNT Construction worker received while working in a trench this past August. When they arrived on site to investigate, another worker was in the same trench that contained similar safety violations.
The trench that was 7 feet deep lacked sloping, benching or shoring that are mandatory to prevent against collapse. Any trench that is 5 feet or deeper must have this cave-in protection when an employee is inside, or it can quickly become a grave, burying workers alive.
This was a willful violation because DNT Construction knew of the hazard but disregarded the law’s requirements and continued to endanger the lives of its workers. They received additional fines for failing to keep excavated material two or more feet away from the edge of the trench, and failing to provide a competent person to remove workers from the trench if needed. These are all considered serious violations.
Most Common Injuries
The most common and dangerous hazard of trenching and excavation is worker injury from collapse of a trench. This chart shows the number of injuries and deaths that could have been avoided if safety measures were in place:
Injuries in this industry are also sustained from the following circumstances:
- Working with heavy machinery
- Manual handling of
- Working in proximity to traffic
- Electrical hazards from overhead and underground power-lines
- Working with underground utilities, such as natural gas
Construction companies are expected to carefully analyze the soil to determine the appropriate sloping, benching and shoring protection needed for workers.
Trenches dug 5 feet deep or greater are required to have a protective system in place, unless they are entirely within stable rock. Trenches 20 feet deep or greater must have a protective system in place that has been designed by a registered professional engineer.
Employers must inspect trenches daily. This should be done by a competent person, meaning an individual who is capable of identifying hazards and predicting possible hazards, unsanitary conditions, dangers to workers, soil types and protective systems required. This person is expected to take prompt measures to eliminate any possibility of a worker becoming injured or killed.
If you should become injured in the trenches of an excavation site, you may have long-term disability and continuing medical bills, in addition to lost wages. You should see a competent legal professional, such as a construction injury attorney, to evaluate your case for the possibility of negligence on the part of your employer. Call Passen & Powell at 312-527-4500 for a Free Case Evaluation.