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Information on worksite trench collapses

In an effort to protect workers from unnecessary risks, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has released safety recommendations and information regarding trench collapses and cave-ins. This information might be a valuable tool for Texas workers and employers who are in the excavation and construction industries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that a majority of these accidents took place during pipeline and pipeline installation, and the fatality rates are relatively high. Data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that approximately 35 workers were killed by trench cave-ins annually from 2000 to 2009. While such accidents may not appear to be dangerous to some individuals, one study found that small, dense pieces of dirt could seriously injure a worker and that a cubic yard of dirt might weigh in excess of 3,000 lbs. This is enough to suffocate or crush a person caught in a trench collapse.

The same study reviewed inspections conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and found that many of the trench fatalities were associated with work sites that did not have the protective systems in place. The administration requires that any excavation that is deeper than 5 feet include one of four safety systems. For example, a work site might shore the trenching with planks or hydraulic jacks.

Even if proper safety procedures are put into place, workers are still at risk for injury. Trench cave-ins and other work-site accidents might result in serious injury or death. However, those who have suffered injuries while on the job and family members of an employee who has died in a work-related accident might be able to file for workers' compensation benefits which might offset some of the economic damages associated with the incident.

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