The annual Trench Safety Stand Down is scheduled for the week starting June 17. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration uses this time to remind employers and workers nationwide, including Tennessee. Compliance with safety standards is the only way to prevent trench collapses and their tragic consequences. The agency explains that a cave-in can bury a worker under a cubic yard of soil that could weigh as much as 3,000 pounds — or the weight of a small car. Workers who are fortunate to survive often suffer severe construction site injuries that could lead to permanent disability.
Safety authorities relate the story of three construction workers who worked in an eight-foot deep trench to emphasize the danger. The walls were not shored, sloped or benched, nor did the employer install a trench box to protect the workers. When one of the trench walls collapsed unexpectedly, only one worker was able to escape. Of the other two, one was partially buried and rescued, but the third worker was entirely buried under the soil. He suffocated before rescue workers could get to him.
Although this might be a hypothetical case, it happens on construction sites nationwide too often. Prevention includes never to enter an uninspected trench or an excavation without a trench box, sloping or shoring. Workers should also never work alone in trenches, and there must be ladders for a quick escape. Spoils must not be put within two feet of the edges of the trench because the weight could compromise the stability of the walls. These are but some of the safety precautions required to prevent trench collapses.
Tennessee workers who are suffering the consequences of cave-ins or other construction site injuries will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The same applies to surviving family members who have lost loved ones in such circumstances. An experienced Tennessee workers’ compensation attorney can explain the available benefits and assist with the claims process.