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The very real danger of trench collapses

Digging a trench by hand, or working in a trench that was already dug out, is sometimes necessary on a construction project. In many ways, trench digging seems so straightforward and simple that it's hard to imagine it would be dangerous on a construction site filled with power tools, heavy equipment and electrical lines.

The reality, though, is that trenches carry a very high level of risk for workers. They can be hurt or even killed in numerous ways:

  • Workers may inhale toxic fumes. They could be exposed to dangerous chemicals.
  • Workers could be buried in a cave-in. In mere seconds, workers can be completely covered beyond reach.
  • Workers in confined spaces run the risk of running out of oxygen, which can lead to asphyxiation.

You may think that even a trench cave-in doesn't sound that dangerous. Surely workers can just dig themselves out or other workers can use that heavy equipment to rescue them, right?

Sometimes, but the damage may already be done. Using heavy equipment is a risk since workers could suffer further injuries. Digging by hand takes time. Did you know that experts claim a single cubic yard of dirt may weigh the same amount as a vehicle? Workers could be seriously injured, and that pressing weight before rescue comes can prove fatal.

These accidents often happen because someone wants to cut corners and save time, getting the job done sooner and reducing the costs. Workers who get hurt because an employer instructed them to work in an unsafe manner or did not provide them with proper safety equipment must know what legal options they have.

Source: EHS Today, "Danger in the Trenches: Excavation Shortcuts Cost Lives," David A. Ward Sr., accessed May 11, 2018

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