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Know the Facts: How to Prevent Cave-Ins

Wilmington Work Accident Lawyers discuss preventing cave-in accidents on construction sites. Cave-ins, known as trench collapses, are all too common in the underground utility and site-work construction industry. Trenching and excavation accidents often result in death or serious injury, with an individual being crushed by the soil. One cubic yard of soil can weigh nearly the same as a car. Other potentially fatal incidents that result from cave-ins include asphyxiation, inhalation of toxic fumes, electrocution, and explosions.

Trenches and Excavations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines excavation as any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the Earth’s surface formed by earth removal. A trench is defined as a narrow excavation (concerning length), which is made below the surface of the ground. Generally, its depth is greater than its width, though its width is not usually greater than 15 feet.

OSHA requires that workers in trenches and excavations are protected and that programs address the dangers that could occur during the excavation process. According to OSHA, the fatality rate for those performing excavation work is a whopping 112 percent higher than that of general construction.

Trench Collapse Experts

Trench collapse cases can be as complicated as cave-ins themselves. They require experts who are experienced in a variety of shoring components, construction installation methods and means, impact of weather conditions, soil classifications (stable, Type A, Type B, or Type C), OSHA investigative report conclusions and regulations for workplace safety.

OSHA Reacts to Violations

In 2015, Angel Brothers Enterprises Ltd. In Baytown, Texas was cited by OSHA for three alleged violations and one alleged willful violation for not protecting its workers, who were engulfed in an unprotected 9-foot deep excavation while replacing an old fire hydrant and water line. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability of death or severe physical harm of which the employer knew or should have known.

Angel Brothers Enterprises, providing various types of underground utility construction, was cited for a willful violation, which carried a penalty of $70,000 for failing to provide workers with cave-in protection such as a trench box or shoring. A violation is willful when it is committed with intentional knowledge, voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or plain indifference.

OSHA Regulations

OSHA itself provides specific regulations that are intended to protect both the individual and their employer. Employers must maintain materials and equipment that is used for protective systems. Such excavation standards include:

  • Sloping the sides of an excavation no steeper than 1½:1. This means that for every foot of depth, the trench must be excavated back 1½ feet.
  • Designing a sloping and benching system
  • Using a trench box or shield

Other good practices include:

  • The employer provides a support system
  • The excavation is in stable rock
  • A registered professional engineer determines that the structure is far away enough from the excavation that it would not be affected by any excavation activities and the excavation work would not pose a hazard to workers

These cases can be particularly complicated and may require the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to understand.

Wilmington Work Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Fight for Construction Workers Injured in Cave-In Accidents

If you or someone you love has been injured in a construction accident, we can help. Call 302-888-1221 or contact us online today to arrange a free consultation with an experienced Wilmington work accident lawyer at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. We proudly represent clients in Wilmington, Dover, Newark, and Middletown, Delaware, as well as those in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.