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Collapsing trench walls can cause fatal workplace injuries

On Behalf of | Jun 13, 2019 | Work Injuries

Almost every construction site in San Diego and across California involves excavation of some kind. If the earth’s surface is cut into, creating an indentation or hole in which the width is narrower than its length qualifies as a trench. Strict safety standards are in place to prevent workplace injuries caused by collapsed trench walls. When such a catastrophe happens, workers can be buried under 3,000 pounds of soil, or more, in the blink of an eye.

The National Trench Safety Stand Down from June 17 to 21 aims to get employers to remind workers of the hazards posed by excavations, and the importance of compliance with safety regulations. If employees understand the dangers and the role of the designated “competent person,” the battle against losing lives in trenches might be halfway won. The specified competent person must inspect the excavation at the start of every workday and also after changes in weather and soil conditions.

Soil is classified as A, B or C, with A being almost solid rock, stable clay or hardpan; B is less stable rock, loam or silt, and C is unstable, loamy sand or gravel. The first task of the competent person is to analyze the soil and determine which support method to use to prevent cave-ins. These include sloping the walls away from the trench, benching them to form steps into the trench, shoring the walls with hydraulic equipment, or inserting a trench box to enclose the workers and prevent collapsing walls.

Workers in San Diego can refuse to enter unprotected trenches, and as work progresses, the competent person must ensure their safety by doing atmospheric quality tests, making sure that utility lines are marked, monitoring water accumulation, and more. Complacency, distractions and taking shortcuts are the biggest enemies of trench workers. Those who do fall victim to workplace injuries can use the services of an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney to help them with claiming benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages.