Rios Law Firm PLLC

Trench safety can prevent a potentially fatal workplace accident

June is the month in which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration focuses on reminding the construction industry in Arizona and across the country of the importance of trench safety. Every trench-related workplace accident is potentially fatal, and that is what the National Trench Safety Stand Down from June 17 to June 21 seeks to prevent. A cave-in can happen in the blink of an eye.

Construction workers can benefit from gaining knowledge about trench-related safety standards and their rights to refuse to work in unsafe excavations. Every construction site must have a designated "competent person" to test and assess the stability of trench walls daily, and also after changing conditions such as the weather. He or she should do soil tests to determine the type of protection necessary to prevent cave-ins of trenches with depths of five feet or more. Methods include shoring, sloping and trench boxes.

Additional requirements include atmospheric tests to protect trench workers against toxic gas exposure and oxygen deprivation. Also, water accumulation in the base of the trench must be monitored. Ladders have to be located within 25 feet of each worker for ease of access and egress. Regulations require that at least a two-foot area from the edge of the excavation must be clear of equipment, tools and spoils, and signage or barricades must alert pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic to stay away.

Any trench collapse is a potentially fatal workplace accident because workers suffocate if they are buried under the soil, which could weigh as much as 3,000 pounds. Surviving victims might suffer severe physical and psychological harm for which compensation is available through the Arizona workers' compensation insurance system. An experienced attorney can assist injured workers with the benefits claims process, and also the surviving family members of workers who did not survive cave-ins.

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