Arye, Lustig & Sassower, P.C.

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Construction employers have duty to protect against trench cave ins

In previous blog posts, we've discussed the many dangers that construction workers who work atop scaffolding, ladders and other heights face. In fact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration consistently reports that, among construction workers, fall-related accidents are the leading cause of injury and death. Recently, the criminal indictments of two construction managers and their companies in New York City also shed light on the many dangers facing construction workers who work on excavation and trenching projects.

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that an average of 40 construction workers are killed each year in accidents related to trench and excavation cave ins. For a worker who is completing assigned duties in a trench that is 10 feet deep, being struck with even a small amount of falling debris or soil can result in serious injury. To prevent injury and death, OSHA developed safety regulations that construction employers must follow.

OSHA requires that construction employers take steps to protect against cave ins for all trenches that are five or more feet deep. Cave in prevention includes angling the sides of a trench so they slope away from the opening and utilizing hydraulic supports inside a trench's walls to help stabilize the soil.

Additionally, there are numerous factors that can affect the safety of a trench including the type of soil, use of heavy machinery near a trench and weather. It's imperative; therefore, that a trench is inspected for signs of instability before and after every work day as well as after it rains.

Construction workers who have suffered injuries or families who have lost a loved one in a trench cave in may choose to take legal action.

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