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The importance of safety in excavation and trenching sites

Although there are significant dangers in all types of construction work, trench work and excavation is among the most dangerous of all.

Even with the dangers of trenching and excavation, there are basic regulations to follow and procedures that have significant impact in reducing the risks. In fact, many if not most of the recorded instances of cave-ins and other accidents could have been avoided with some basic safety precautions.

A Recent Trench Collapse

A recent Washington Post story tells of a construction worker who was trapped in a collapsed trench. He waited six hours before rescue crews were able to bring him out of the trench and rush him to a medical facility.

Avoiding Trench and Excavation Accidents

This is exactly the type of accident that should not happen. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has created regulations to prevent cave-ins like this from happening.

According to OSHA's Trenching and Excavation Safety Guidelines, "Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations." In addition to a range of other specific guidelines for trenching and excavation work, OSHA requires that construction companies doing this work must:

  • Make sure protective systems are in place: Although there are a few different types of protective systems available, some type of adequate system should always be in place at trenching and excavation sites.

  • Inspect trenching and excavation sites daily: A competent person must inspect excavation and trenching areas daily to make sure they are safe.

  • Provide adequate access and egress: Workers must be able to get into and out of work areas safely, and rescue units need to be able to get into these areas if anything goes wrong.

Although the Washington Post story is unclear as to whether there were any OSHA violations responsible for the accident, most accident of this kind are avoided through basic precautions. If adequate protection systems, access points and egress points were in place, the collapse would have been unlikely and the rescue crews should have gotten in much more quickly.

When serious construction accidents happen, a skilled lawyer can usually obtain compensation. The better solution, of course is to avoid these accidents in the first place. Hopefully, as OSHA continues to regulate workplace safety and crack down on violations, accidents of this kind can be avoided in the future.

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