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Dangers of trench cave-ins

Every year in Louisiana and around the country, workers who are involved in digging trenches are seriously injured or killed when the trenches in which they are working suddenly collapse. Trench cave-ins can happen with no warning, and even a cubic foot of dirt can exert up to 3,000 pounds of pressure, effectively crushing workers on which it might fall.

The prevalence of trench injuries is unfortunate especially as these injuries are very preventable. OSHA regulations are in place directing employers to utilize supports for trench walls. However, most of the trench accidents that occur are due to unsupported walls suddenly crumbling, despite the regulations that are in place.

Between the years of 2000 and 2009, a total of 350 workers were killed in trench collapses, an average of 35 per year. Those most at risk of trench accident involvement include those working in the telecommunications industry, utility sector, pipe layers and sewer companies. Factors such as soil quality and amount of water contained in it can increase the likelihood of collapse. Employers should make certain that trench walls in which their employees will be working have supported walls in order to reduce the likelihood of injuries and deaths.

People who are seriously injured in workplace accidents as well as family members of those who are killed may be able to obtain benefits through filing workers' compensation claims. In addition to covering medical expenses, workers' compensation may also pay for ongoing rehabilitation and treatment, the cost of needed prosthetic devices, monthly benefits payments to replace the worker's lost income and funeral and burial expenses in the event a worker is killed.

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, "Preventing Worker Deaths from Trench Cave-ins", accessed on Feb. 3, 2015

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