If you are a construction worker in Missouri or Kansas, you will likely have to risk your life frequently. Some of the most hazardous surroundings in this industry are trenches, and although these are known risks, trench collapses continue to cause severe injuries and claim the lives of employees. If your employer prioritizes profits over employee safety, your life may be at risk.
Some business owners avoid the expenses of equipment to support trench walls, while others have grown complacent and fail to consider collapsing excavations. If your life is at risk in this way, you may want to learn about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's safety regulations with which your employer must comply.
What is a trench?
Any human-made depression, cut or cavity in the surface of the earth that is narrower than 15 feet where the depth exceeds the width is a trench. These excavations form a significant part of the activities on construction sites. The dangers in trenches come from unsupported walls that can collapse and bury workers in soil, causing suffocation. One cubic yard of soil apparently weighs as much as a small car. Other hazards include loads falling from above, falls, hazardous atmospheres and equipment-related incidents.
Assessment of hazard level
Your employer must appoint a competent person to inspect the trench before each shift to ensure it is safe for workers to enter. He or she must be able to identify any potential hazards that could threaten employee safety. This could include unsanitary conditions, unstable walls and other potential risks. The competent person must also take steps to remedy any hazards before allowing workers to enter the trench. Safe access and egress methods must be within 25 feet of each worker.
Stabilization of the walls of any trench is mandatory. There are several ways to achieve this, and you can refuse to enter an unprotected trench. Registered engineers must design protective systems for excavations that are deeper than 20 feet. Aspects to consider include the depth, soil classification and water content, current and predicted weather conditions, potential spoil loads on the edges, and activities going on around the trench. Those that have solid rock walls need no protection, but any other trenches need one of the following types of support:
- Shoring: Walls supported by a hydraulic aluminum structure
- Sloping: Angling the walls away from the trench
- Shielding: Steel walls in a box form to prevent trench collapses
Your rights in the event of a trench-collapse injury
If your employer fails to protect you from harm, you may claim workers' compensation insurance benefits to cover your medical expenses and any wages you might have lost while you were in the hospital or recovering at home. The claims process could be quite a challenge, and for that reason, many injured workers in Kansas and Missouri seek the support and guidance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney. The lawyer can navigate the legal and administrative proceedings on your behalf.