In a recent inspection of Dustcom Limited Inc., the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found the company to be negligent in providing suitable safety conditions for trench workers--putting these workers at unnecessary risk of trench collapse. Dustcom received the maximum allowable fine: more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Trench collapses (also known as "cave-ins") are a serious--and often fatal--type of construction accident. OSHA requires that any of the following trench protective systems be in place at a construction site to reduce the risk of cave-ins:
- Sloping: cutting the trench wall back to make it less steep
- Shoring: installing metal supports to prevent the soil from shifting
- Shielding: using trench boxes to protect workers
In addition to the above infrastructural requirements, a "competent person" in the construction company must inspect trenches daily to ensure that the area remains free of hazards as conditions change. As issues are discovered, this person must immediately take action to restore safe conditions to the area.
Finally, construction companies must ensure that trench workers have the ability to safely enter and exit the trench (using equipment such as ramps, steps or ladders) for any trench exceeding four feet in depth. Such exit/entry points must be a maximum of 25 feet from any worker.
All workers have the right to a safe working environment. OSHA regulations are in place to ensure that these rights are upheld. If you believe your workplace is failing to meet the requisite workplace safety standards, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal options.