Excavation is essential to build the foundations of new buildings and replace existing mechanicals that lie below the surface of the ground. Because much of the work must be done to precise specifications and adjacent to fragile pipes and cables, much of the work needs to be completed by skilled construction crews.An Extremely Dangerous Activity
According to data collection by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the rate of injuries and fatalities related to excavation and trenching projects make the work one of the most dangerous parts of any construction project. Every year approximately 100 construction workers are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in excavation projections and trenching accidents. Trenching injuries may include: crushing injuries, broken bones, asphyxiation or injury to the workers head.Sloppy Safety Standards
While trenching has notoriously been a dangerous part of the job for many people who make a living in the construction industry, basic precautions can greatly reduce the accident rates involving these projects. Trouble typically follows situations where construction companies fail to train, supervise or provide their employees with basic safety equipment necessary to safely conduct their jobs.
OSHA, the regulatory agency for all construction projects, has very specific safety requirements for all excavation and trenching work. Among the safety precautions found in 29 CFR 1926.652 relating to trenching and excavation:
- Use wall retaining devices (trench box) to prevent the walls of the excavated area from collapsing
- Analyze soil conditions prior to the commencement of work
- Locate the presence of utilities such as: electric lines or gas lines prior to excavation
- Test air quality for oxygen levels and presence of other toxic gases such as carbon monoxide
- Provide a safe way for workers to enter and exit the construction area
- Inspect excavation areas following a rain
- Prohibit the use of overhead work / suspended loads above the trenching area
- Provide barriers and fencing around the trenching area to prevent workers and machinery from falling into the area under excavation
- Require all workers in the area to wear hard hats
Many of the fatalities and injuries happen at small construction companies that may not be providing the correct safety equipment or procedures. Of the 488 deaths between 1992-2000, 68% were at companies with 50 or fewer workers. 46% of the fatalities were at small companies with 10 or fewer workers. The numbers suggest that there could be a lack of training or safety measures that are happening in these smaller companies, putting their employees at risk.Establishing Fault In Excavation Accidents
As a construction worker injured in a trenching accident, Illinois law puts the burden of proving fault on the injured party to establish where fault lies. In construction accident cases where there are numerous sub-contractors working in close proximity to one another, identifying the role that each entity may have played in the incident may be difficult.
The construction accident attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers are well versed in the complexities of the work that goes on at construction sites and has experience litigating construction accident and death cases where fault may lie on numerous entities. In addition, our law office has an investigator on staff that can be deployed to the scene of an accident at a moment’s notice which affords us an opportunity to gather information from the scene to ensure that the condition of the site is preserved during trial.
Filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit following a construction accident is not easy. Vigorous opposition from attorneys representing the companies and contractors involved typically fight the prosecution of a work injury case. Our team has experience in these cases and is willing to speak to you about your legal rights with no obligation before you retain our firm. Give our trench collapse lawyers a call and see we are a good fit for you and your family.
Excavation Safety Resources:
- OSHA Fact Sheet: Trenching and Excavation Safety
- OSHA Construction eTool: No Protective System
- OSHA Instruction CPL 2.69 September 19, 1985 Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance
- OSHA publishes new educational materials on working safely during trenching operations