Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics cause concern among safety authorities about the prevalence of trench collapses that cause about 25 fatalities nationwide each year, including San Diego. Reportedly, 75% of trench-related deaths are caused by cave-ins, while electrocutions and struck-by incidents cause the balance. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration use emphasis campaigns each year to underscore the hazards trench workers face, and also to increase enforcement of safety standards to prevent workplace injuries.

Although these campaigns have proved to be successful in reducing the number of trench collapses over the years, lives are still lost due to noncompliance with safety regulations. The depth of any trench determines whether a designated competent person or an engineer must determine the method required to secure trench walls. Shoring, sloping or benching are the different methods used to mitigate cave-ins.

Other dangers that threaten the safety of trench workers include the failure to mark and barricade gas or electricity utility lines, and workers in heavy equipment at ground level must avoid overhead power lines. Working inside the trench with heavy machinery pose many hazards, and operating such equipment or vehicles too close to the excavation’s edge can compromise the stability of the trench walls. Working in a trench close to traffic poses many hazards, and falling loads from overhead, hazardous atmospheres and using mobile equipment in the trench cause many injuries to trench workers — and some of them are fatal.

While safety authorities say trench collapses and other trench-related workplace injuries are preventable, the slightest error can have devastating consequences. Fortunately, the medical expenses and lost wages of injured workers are typically covered by the California workers’ compensation insurance system. An experienced San Diego attorney can provide valuable assistance throughout the navigation of the benefits claims process.