Practice Area Spotlight – Trench Collapses

Working in and around trenches and excavations is dangerous work. The primary hazard is a trench cave-in or collapse. Industry standards set out in OSHA and ANSI address excavation safety to reduce, and ideally, to eliminate these hazards. Despite these standards, preventable injuries and deaths continue to occur.

To effectively protect against these risks, workers must be trained on how and why cave-in and trench collapses occur. Workers must then be trained on how to minimize and/or eliminate the risks of these hazards.

Cave-ins and trench collapses often occur suddenly and without warning, but that does not mean they can’t be prevented. For starters, every dig must have a competent person overseeing the project. The person in charge must be able to determine and classify the type of soil being excavated. Determining the soil composition is an on-going process because the excavation process may change a soil’s classification. This is especially true in scenarios involving a “re-dig.” When an excavation is filled-in, the soil is unstable. If the area needs to be re-excavated, extra precaution must be taken to guard against potential cave-ins.

Additionally, excavations greater than five (5) feet deep must be supported by an adequate protective system. Common protective systems include 1) sloping or benching of soil; 2) shoring; and 3) shielding. Determining the type of protective system to be used is specific to the excavation and work being done inside the excavation.

For nearly twenty years, I have handled many cases involving trench and excavation injuries or deaths. These matter are complex and require an experienced litigator, and typically the assistance of a construction or OSHA expert. If you have a potential case involving a trench or excavation, please email or text us at 312-307-0119.

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