The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes excavating as one of the most dangerous construction operations in a publication titled “Safety and Health Topics: Trenching and Excavation.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports an average of 54 trenching and excavation fatalities a year.
In its “Fact Sheet on Trenching and Excavation Safety,” OSHA says that an average of two workers every month are killed in trench collapses and lists common hazards of trenching and excavation, including cave-ins, falls, falling loads, mobile equipment accidents and hazardous atmospheres. This OSHA publication makes the chilling statement that “an unprotected trench is an early grave.”
At the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, we help Long Island and greater New York metro area workers who have been injured in trench collapses and cave-ins. Our knowledgeable Long Island construction accident attorneys have more than a century of combined experience. Our legal team has recovered millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for our clients.
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What Causes Cave-Ins and Trench Collapses?
OSHA requires that workers in trenches be protected from cave-ins by at least one of the following systems:
- The trench is sloped for stability.
- The trench is cut in stepped, benched grades (for certain types of soil only).
- The walls of the trench are supported by a system of posts, beams, shores, or planking and hydraulic jacks.
- A trench box is provided to shield and protect workers.
OSHA also requires that:
- All materials and equipment are kept at a minimum of 2 feet back from the trench.
- A safe way to exit is provided within 25 feet of workers.
- When conditions change, a competent person must inspect trenches daily.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) stresses that worker deaths caused by trench cave-ins are preventable. It lists the following facts and factors that contribute to worker deaths in trench collapses:
- Trench walls collapse suddenly, leaving workers no time to get out.
- One cubic yard of dirt may weigh more than 3,000 pounds and crush or suffocate workers.
- Even small, solid pieces of dirt can seriously injure workers.
- 64 percent of fatal injuries occur at less than 10 feet of depth.
- Not having a protective system in place has been the leading cause of fatalities in trench collapses.
- Soil instability is affected by the type of soil, its water content, heavy equipment weight, proximity to previously excavated and backfilled areas, and vibrations from motor vehicles and machines.
- Trenches can collapse if the sides are not shored properly, with supports placed the correct distance apart for the type of soil and the depth and width of the trench.
Common Injuries in Cave-Ins and Trench Collapses
When a trench wall suddenly collapses, workers have little or no time to get out. They can be buried under a massive weight of collapsing soil and crushed or suffocated to death. In a case reported by the New York State Department of Health, a self-employed plumbing contractor installing a sewer line was trapped under a slab of asphalt, soil and rock and died from his injuries after a trench collapsed.
Trench cave-ins often result in death for the trapped workers. When they survive, workers may suffer crush injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), internal injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones and a host of other serious injuries.
Who is Responsible for Injuries Causes by Cave-Ins and Trench Collapses?
If you have been injured in an on-the-job cave-in accident, you are most likely eligible to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Our experienced Long Island workplace accident lawyers will be happy to assist you with your claim.
Although workers are barred under state law from filing lawsuits against their employers for most work-related injuries, another company or entity may be responsible for your accident, in which case you may be entitled to file a third-party personal injury claim in addition to receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Depending on the circumstances of your particular case, a party at fault for your accident other than your employer could be a contractor, subcontractor, site developer, manufacturer, vendor or other entity.
How a Lawyer can Help with a Construction Accident Claim
At the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, our lawyers have extensive litigation experience and a track record of negotiating fair settlements and winning trial verdicts in construction accident cases. Whether we are representing a client in a workers’ compensation claim, a third-party personal injury lawsuit, or both, our firm is committed to pursuing the maximum compensation available.
Richard Jaffe is a trained Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), which gives him unique insight into injury cases. Our skilled lawyers will carefully review the facts of your case to determine what parties may be responsible for your injuries. We will evaluate the full impact of your injuries to arrive at the full extent of your damages. We have the legal knowledge, experience and dedication to fight aggressively for your rights and interests.
For a free claim evaluation and consultation, call us now or fill out our online contact form. We will respond promptly. We can arrange evening and weekend appointments, and we can come to you.
- OSHA: Trenching and Excavation
- OSHA: Working Safely in Trenches
- CDC: Trenching and Excavation
- NIOSH: Preventing Worker Deaths from Trench Cave-Ins
- New York State Department of Health: A Plumber Dies After the Collapse of a Trench Wall
For a free legal consultation with a cave-ins and trench collapse accidents lawyer serving Long Island, call 516-358-6900