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Hazardous Materials and Trench Collapse: Knowing the Dangers

By Matthew Golitko on January 22, 2018

A pipe in a trenchTrench collapses are deadly hazards among construction workers. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), 23 workers were killed and 12 workers were injured in trench collapse incidents in 2016.

The lawyers in Golitko & Daly know how deadly these kinds of accidents can be. Our Indianapolis, IN work injury attorneys consider some of the dangers associated with trench collapses and what hazardous materials might make these incidents more likely.

Causes of Trench Collapse

A trench may collapse for a variety of reasons, but ultimately a trench fails because the walls of the trench give way. If a trench is not properly braced and safety standards are not considered, the likelihood of a trench collapse increases, placing the lives of workers at risk.

Even with a fast emergency response, catastrophic injuries and fatalities are possible as a result of trench collapses.

Issues with Trench Safety

Basic trench safety must be observed at all times. This means that any trenches that are deeper than 5 feet require some kind of protective system designed by a professional engineer. This will help ensure the walls of the trench don’t cave in.

Even with shallow trenches, some form of safe entry and exit must be within 25 feet of workers at all times. This means having ramps, ladders, and so forth readily available just in case.

Heavy Equipment and Vehicles in Trench Collapses

One of the major hazards in trench collapses is the presence of heavy equipment and other vehicles. The weight of these vehicles can weaken nearby soil, which can affect the stability of the walls of a trench. Each time the soil is weakened, this increases the likelihood of cave in/collapse.

Heavy equipment, trucks, and other vehicles need to be kept a safe distance away to prevent compromising the safety of a trench.

Tools and Construction Materials in Trench Collapses

In addition to vehicles, large pipes, heavy building materials, and other large objects common in construction work can cause trench collapse hazards. These objects may fall into a trench, causing head injuries and other kinds of harm. In the case of a trench collapse, these tools and materials can make rescue efforts more difficult, trapping workers underneath them.

Again, safe distance and awareness of where objects are is key to keeping others safe.

Hazards from Weather and Accumulated Water

By far, one of the biggest hazards contributing to trench collapse is bad weather and the presence of water. Rain can weaken the walls of a trench even if it is properly designed and brace. Collapse of a trench is made deadlier when mud and water accumulate within the trench. Workers trapped during a collapse may drown or suffocate given the dangerous situation.

During bad weather situations, it’s important for construction companies and workers to exercise caution, following OSHA guidelines and using common sense.

Legal Options Following a Trench Collapse

After a trench collapse, there may be questions about negligence on the part of employers and third-parties involved in the incident. If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a trench collapse, our attorneys can help. We will go over the evidence in your case and help determine what legal options may be available to you.

Learn More About Your Legal Rights and Options

For more information about your legal options following a workplace injury or accident, be sure to contact our team of work injury attorneys today. The lawyers at Golitko & Daly are on your side.

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