Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict safety standards with which construction company owners must comply, trench-related fatalities are frequently reported. These construction site accidents happen nationwide, including in Tennessee. Trenches are known for the risk of cave-ins, but that is not the only danger.
Shoring or sloping a trench or providing a trench box to prevent the walls from collapsing is crucial, but so is protecting workers from exposure to toxic gases while they work in deep trenches. An example of an employer’s failure in this regard is a report of OSHA proposing a fine of more than $422,000 after a worker in another state was overwhelmed by hydrogen sulfide fumes that caused his death. It is a toxic and highly flammable gas that is frequently present in confined spaces like sewers and trenches.
To mitigate these hazards, employers must test the air in all trenches for the presence of toxic gases, and they must provide exhaust systems for reducing gas levels. Furthermore, workers must know of all potential risks, and only those with adequate training in recognizing hazards and understanding how to protect themselves should be sent to work in trenches. If the exhaust system cannot effectively remove hazardous fumes, workers must be equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment, such as respirators, to keep them safe.
Families in Tennessee who have lost loved ones who suffered fatal trench-related construction site accidents might have questions about their eligibility for workers’ compensation survivors’ benefits. An experienced attorney can explain which benefits are typically included, such as compensation to cover end-of-life expenses and a financial package to make up for lost wages. A lawyer can also assist with the benefits claims process.