We often talk in this blog about construction accidents that happen far above the ground, such as falls from heights and dropped tools landing on workers further below. But a lot of construction work happens below ground level too. And workers can just as easily suffer serious injuries down there.
One of the worst construction site disasters that can happen is a trench collapse. Dirt or water can flood the hole without warning, trapping the worker or workers inside. The risk of suffocation or drowning can be severe, and nonfatal but serious injuries are also possible.
New York construction worker caught in trench cave-in
Recently at a construction site in the Bronx, a worker became trapped when the 10-foot trench he was working in suddenly collapsed. The dirt buried the man up to his waist.
Dozens of police officers and 100 firefighters responded to the scene and rescued the worker. It took them about two hours to get him free, after which he was taken to the hospital in serious but stable condition.
OSHA’s rules for construction trench safety
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has several rules for maximizing trench safety. When digging a trench, crews should do one of the following:
- Slope or bench the walls
- Shore the walls with supports
- Shield the walls with trench boxes
Also, workers should not enter a trench that has not been properly inspected, always have a safe entrance and exit, and watch out for standing water and other hazards. Even with these precautions, you cannot always tell when a trench will cave in. If you are caught in a cave-in and seriously hurt as a result, you might have to stop working for a long time to recover. Without that income coming into the house, you might need workers’ compensation to help.