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Unsafe trenches can cause severe or even fatal workplace injuries

The dangers of excavations and trenches are well-known to construction company owners and their employees in California. However, some employers continue to have nonchalant attitudes toward the safety of their workers. Such an irresponsible approach is not only illegal, but it also puts their employees at risk of serious -- or even fatal -- workplace injuries.

Because workers are exposed to so many hazards when they work in trenches, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes safety regulations pertaining to every step of trench work -- starting at assessing the area before excavation. Employers must provide appropriate training to teach workers how to recognize dangerous conditions. Protocols must be in place to show them what to do in the event of an emergency and how to communicate the hazards to other workers and supervisors.

A recent inspection by OSHA at a construction site in another state yielded citations for violations that are typically committed when trench work is done. The walls of all trenches that are deeper than 5 feet must be supported to prevent collapses. Soil that is removed from the trench must not be placed on the edge of the excavation, as the additional weight can cause a cave-in. OSHA issued both the general contractor and the subcontractor at the site citations for these violations.

California workers who have had to face unanticipated expenses for medical treatment and time away from work because of workplace injuries may find comfort in knowing that they are entitled to pursue financial relief. Benefits claims to cover these losses may be filed with the workers' compensation insurance program. The compensation typically awarded for lost wages is based upon the injured worker's average weekly wage.

Source: news.worksafedocs.com, "Citations issued to general and subcontractor in Florida for work safety violations", April 20, 2016

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