Why trenching and excavation is so dangerous for workers

Jun 15 2016

While it’s easy to think that construction projects are largely confined to the surfaces and skies around us, the reality is that there are just as many projects, if not more, taking place on a subterranean level from the digging of foundations to the laying of sewer pipes.

In fact, it’s important to understand that with this type of work comes unique and considerable danger to construction workers, including hazards associated with the process of trenching and excavation.

For those unfamiliar with these terms, trenching and excavation is essentially the process by which narrow manmade cuts are made below the ground (i.e., trenches are dug) with the depth being greater than the width and the width measuring no more than 15 feet across.

While a trench may seem like one of the safer locations in which a person can work in and around on a construction site, this is far from the case. Indeed, trenches present an elevated risk of falls and accidents involving mobile equipment to those working above the surface, while those actually working in the trench are at an elevated risk of being struck by falling loads and encountering hazardous/noxious atmospheres.

By far, however, the single biggest danger facing workers in trenches is cave-ins. If you have a hard time believing it, consider that statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reveal that two people lose their lives in trench collapses every month here in the U.S. and that a single cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as an automobile.

As alarming as this is, the good news is that OSHA has set forth some very exacting trenching and excavation requirements that all employers must abide by in order to protect their workers from serious injuries — or worse.

We’ll start examining some of these requirements in a future post.

In the meantime, if you are a construction worker who suffered serious injuries in a workplace accident and have questions about what to do next, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can examine your situation, outline your legal options and help guide you toward a viable solution.