One of the most dangerous jobs on any construction site is working underground in a trench during a variety of different projects. In fact, hundreds of workers are injured each year in trench collapse accidents, and, according to a report issued by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, over two-thirds of those injuries happen to workers with small construction firms (those with fewer than 50 employees).
Fortunately, workers who suffer those sorts of injuries do have options. If the injury was caused by a third party, the worker or their family may be able to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death suit against the party responsible. Alternatively, the worker may also have a worker’s compensation claim open to them for the wide array of potential injuries that may result from trench work.
Types of Injuries
Working in underground trenches can bring workers into contact with many different hazards. One of the most obvious is the possibility of the trench collapsing, which can cause broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and even death. However, there are other dangers as well. Workers digging trenches must be careful to avoid utility lines like gas pipes or electricity. If the company or the city did not properly inform the workers of the line’s placement, the workers could be at risk for electrocution or injuries from explosions. Additionally, trenches and similar underground work areas often suffer from poor ventilation. Without proper care to ensure fresh air for workers, they run the risk of suffocation.
Because of these many dangers from trench work, OSHA has produced a set of regulations that govern what steps companies should take to ensure the safety of their workers. In addition to preventing accidents before they happen, the regulations can also be useful in lawsuits for demonstrating that a third party, like a subcontractor, acted unsafely when building the trench. Some common safety steps that OSHA requires include:
- - The use of trench boxes to prevent wall collapses;
- - Utility mapping and soil quality testing prior to excavation;
- - Air quality tests to determine the levels of oxygen as well as certain poisonous gasses;
- - Inspections of the stability of the trench following a rainstorm;
- - Proper safety barricades surrounding trenches to prevent worker falls; and
- - A prohibition on overhead work in the areas above trenches.
However, those steps are just some examples of the precautions set out in the OSHA regulations.
If you or a loved one has recently suffered an injury from a trench collapse or other construction work, contact a skilled Illinois personal injury attorney today. Our experienced team of lawyers works with clients in towns across the northwest suburbs, like Schaumburg, Mount Prospect, and Crystal Lake, to help them get the compensation that they deserve.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.