Enhancing the safety of workers in construction trenches and excavations should be a top priority for New York contractors since an unsafe trench can cause serious injury and possible loss of life. The main hazard of a trench is a cave-in, a situation where trench walls break loose and collapse on top of workers. These kinds of disasters can be prevented if contractors properly train and equip their workers.
According to Construction Junkie, OSHA has recently laid out five safety tips that help reduce the likelihood of a trench caving in. One of the ways is to provide protection from cave-ins by crafting the trench to create more stable walls. This can be done by sloping the trench, or by shoring or shielding it. It is also crucial to keep the edge of a trench free of heavy materials that can place pressure on trench walls.
As with any part of an outdoor construction site, a trench can be rained on and accumulate water. Standing water in a trench is a warning sign since standing water can destabilize the internal strength of soil. It may be necessary to modify the trench before any worker can proceed into it. In general, a trench should be inspected by someone OSHA designates as a competent person before workers are cleared to perform work within the trench.
There should also be a clear and efficient way to enter and leave the trench. A trench that reaches four feet deep requires a means of entry and exit. It should also not take walking more than twenty-five feet to get to the way of exit. An easily accessible means of exit is crucial in the event the trench shows signs that part of it is about to collapse.
A worker who is injured in a trench collapse may seek to have medical bills covered under the state's workers’ compensation laws. Given the possible life altering effects of a serious trench injury, construction contractors should be aware of every possible way to make a trench safer for workers. Because workplace accidents take many different forms, do not read this article as legal advice, only as general information.