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.
The safety and health of workers in Tennessee are the employers' responsibility, regardless of whether they are permanent, temporary or volunteer workers. Workplaces must be free of known hazards, and employees must be informed of remaining hazards to which they will be exposed. This is particularly crucial with volunteering workers who do not necessarily have adequate training or experience for the job to be done, increasing their chances of suffering construction site injuries.
UT's Construction Industry Research and Policy Center studied workers' compensation claims filed by construction workers in Tennessee. The results indicated that inexperienced workers who are new to the industry are at a higher risk of suffering construction site injuries. The CIRPC executive director says the research confirmed previous observations that new workers filed a significant percentage of benefits claims.
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.
Despite all the emphasis put on trench safety by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, excavations continue to collapse nationwide, including Tennessee. Safety authorities say construction workers should guard against the complacency that often develops after frequent trench work without mishaps. Unsecured trenches on construction sites can collapse unexpectedly, often with catastrophic consequences.
Safety authorities frequently remind employers and employees nationwide, including in Tennessee, of the importance of addressing hazards to prevent slip-and-fall accidents on construction sites. The risks of such incidents are exacerbated during the winter months when rain, melting snow and ice cause many surfaces to be slippery. They warn against the dangers of rushing when walking surfaces are treacherous, and suggest several precautions that workers can take.
Construction workers in Tennessee will always face safety hazards, regardless of whether they are working on skyscrapers, residential buildings or at entertainment parks. The challenge is for the construction company owner or supervisor to protect the safety and health of employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes regulations and guidelines for all industries, and compliance can prevent all construction worker injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says falls cause most of the injuries and fatalities on construction sites nationwide, including in Tennessee. The agency devised a model as part of a fall prevention program. They suggest employers should use a strategy that focuses on planning, providing and training to limit construction injuries.
The hazards posed by excavations in Tennessee and elsewhere can never be emphasized enough. The chances of a construction worker surviving a trench collapse are minimal because one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a small car. Being buried under such a load usually causes suffocation long before rescuers can save a victim of a trench collapse.
In a recent collaboration between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other organizations, safety authorities held a trench safety stand down nationwide, including in Tennessee. Many people take power and water supply in their homes for granted without giving thought to the construction workers and utility workers who risk their lives in trenches and excavations to make sure those services are available. Every time a worker enters a trench to lay a pipe, cable or gas line, his or her life is on the line.