Trenching is an important part of the construction industry. Unfortunately, it is also associated with an elevated rate of injury and death on the job. A recent case in Illinois shows the dangers of trenching in unregulated or unsafe environments. Chicago injured workers lawyers can point to many cases of preventable injuries caused by improper protection for trenching workers.
Recently discovered trenching hazards in Illinois
In December 2014, investigators working for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration discovered that Illinois employees were exposed to severe cave-in hazards during a trenching operation. The employees, who were installing a water main, were at work in a deep trench without cave-in protection. If their supervisors had not been forced to halt work immediately, they could have been disabled or killed.
Dangers of trenching
According to OSHA statistics, trenching and excavation workers face a fatality rate 112 percent higher than that of general construction workers. Chicago injured workers lawyers are aware that this high death rate can be traced to a combination of the following hazards:
- Lack of adequate protective systems
- Lack of inspection in and around trenches
- Insufficient access and escape points
- Unsafe placement of spoil piles and supports
If supervisors and workers neglect even one of these hazards, a fatal accident may result.
Protection while trenching
Chicago injured workers lawyers know that adequate protective systems are important to keep trenching professionals safe in a variety of conditions and circumstances. Excavation is always a hazardous job. Even the best protective setup cannot always insure against accidents. The best way to decrease the likelihood of excavation injuries and fatalities is to take a broad approach involving multiple safety concerns.
Important points for excavation companies
Excavation companies must be aware of soil conditions before they begin digging. They must contact all companies that provide local utilities (including electricity and gas) to confirm that no lines will be disturbed during the trenching operation. Before workers are allowed to go into the enclosed area, supervisors are required to test for hazardous fumes and lack of sufficient oxygen. If water is likely to accumulate, companies must provide for proper drainage. Workers have the right to sufficient access and egress on work sites of all sizes. Once the site is in place, it must also be inspected regularly for safety and cleanliness.
Know your rights as a trenching professional
Excavation workers in Illinois have the right to a safe work site. If you are concerned about unsafe trenching conditions on the job, you may wish to consider speaking with a workers’ compensation attorney.