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Dangers in trenches

People who work in trenches, which are narrow underground excavations, work in high-risk conditions. New York construction workers should be aware of the dangers and take precautions when working in digging operations, building roads, and repairing water, utility and sewer lines.   

According to OSHA, work fatalities occur most frequently due to trench cave-ins. These can be caused by a number of different things, including:

  • Sandy soil and other types of loose soil
  • Equipment vibrations that cause soil to break up
  • Weak trench sides, often caused by water build up
  • Equipment that gets too close to the trench's edge

OSHA requires that companies provide safe access into and out of trenches. This means that workers should have ramps, ladders or steps within close reach at all times so they can easily enter and exit the project. Trenches and other excavations should be inspected and monitored at the start and end of the day as well as regularly throughout the shift in order to recognize potential dangers and prevent unnecessary accidents.

The Safety and Health Magazine also outlines ways to help prevent cave-ins and other accidents from occurring. Using protective systems, such as shoring, sloping, shielding and benching, can significantly cut down on serious and fatal mishaps. In fact, these systems are required for excavations that reach five feet and deeper, although some shallower trenches may also warrant them. It is imperative to inspect the site thoroughly, and a variety of factors must be considered. These include the soil's water content, weather changes, types of soil, cut depth, materials being utilized in the excavation and other actions happening in the vicinity of the project.

 

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