Construction Safety - Trench Collapse

Marion, IL worksite saw the untimely deaths of two construction workers this past March when a trench caved in and buried the two men under several tons of dirt. A construction worker was crushed to death when a trench collapsed in Brooklyn. Two brothers were entrapped in a collapsed trench in Potomac, Washington.

Many who aren't familiar with the construction industry are probably wondering: what exactly is a trench? A trench is a confined space utilized in construction projects. As can easily be seen by the aforementioned examples, trench collapses occur more often than many know. In fact, trench collapses are responsible for the deaths of approximately 30 construction workers each year and have been responsible for some of the nation's deadliest construction incidents; and considering that soil weighs between 2,000 to 3,000 pounds per cubic yard, it's no wonder why these incidents often result in serious injury and/or death. What's worse, many of the deaths caused by trench collapses occur when other workers climb in in attempt to save other workers.

The construction industry is widely regarded as 'high-risk'; however, contractors and employers have a responsibility to protect theiremployees. In order to ensure a safe work environment is maintained, a set of safety guidelines have been developed which must be met in situations where trenches are involved. However, meeting these guidelines does not necessarily ensure an accident won't occur.

General safety rules require that trenches over five feet deep utilize one of these safety precautions: sloping, shoring, or using a steel cage or trench shield. In addition, each trench must have a way out, be it a ladder or a ramp. All trenches must abide by the OSHAs rules unless the trench is in a stable rock or the trench is less than five feet deep and there's little reason to expect a cave-in.

And OSHA isn't the only source for trench safety information; in addition to training CDs and awareness programs, there's a full, in-depth excavation safety glossary which details and defines the various aspects of excavation and trench safety. Many other websites are also dedicated to informing workers of problems and safety precautions pertaining to trench safety.

One should research such websites before working in a trench; however, research alone is not enough. Workers should also make sure all equipment is in good condition and mark utilities before digging.

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