Trench Warfare – The Hidden Dangers Of Construction Site Trenches

A workers compensation lawyer in Los Angeles will often have to deal with a plethora of workers comp disputes involving construction site employees. Whether they are simple slip and fall accident disputes or wrongful death claims, one thing’s for sure, construction sites are inherently dangerous places to work. One of the major problems that cause injury to workers is trenches.

Anyone working in an unprotected trench might as well be working in an open grave and there have been several high profile cases that highlight the dangers of working in such conditions. A Los Angeles workers compensation lawyer explains.

In January of this year (2012) a Californian man, 39-year-old Raul Zapata, was buried alive when the 12 foot deep trench that he was working in collapsed on top of him. The construction site ‘cave in’ happened in Milpitas, California, and was so bad it took rescuers two days to bring up his body. The sad reality of this death is that like many other wrongful death cases it should never have happened. 3 days prior to the accident the OSHA has issued a ‘stop work’ order on the company US based ‘Sino Investments Inc’ because they had failed to shore up the trench, and as a result was deemed a safety hazard. To pour more oil on the fire it turned out that the company did not have workers compensation insurance and added to this, they only had a permit to dig a trench that was 5 feet deep. This case is currently ongoing and is being dealt with by an experienced team of workers compensation lawyers. Los Angeles and the surrounding areas have some of the best in the business and are used to dealing with such cases.

Surprisingly or not, two workers every month are buried alive in construction site trench collapses and it really was lucky that no other workers were killed on the Milpitas construction site as it’s not uncommon for co-workers to go rushing in to help, only to find themselves also trapped. Simply by adhering to Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards of shoring up all trenches that are 5 foot deep and over you can protect people against the dangers of trench collapse.

Since 2003 more than 200 construction site workers have died in collapsed excavation trenches and hundreds more have been injured, so with this in mind, here are the latest trench safety methods as put in place by the OSHA.

Trench safety guidelines

Any trench that is 5 feet or more deep needs a protective system in place to prevent cave in, unless the trench has been dug into sufficiently stable rock. Any trenches that are over 20 feet deep require that a full protective system be put in place as designed by a professional engineer. The protective system has to be designed with easy escape routes and has to be designed in accordance with safety guidelines.

Daily inspections

All trenches are to be inspected daily for any possible danger areas and the inspection needs to be documented accordingly. This is to be carried out by a competent person. A competent person is one who is deemed to be capable of identifying hazards and problem areas such as un-sanitary working conditions, dangerous soil types and can take immediate measures to rectify these dangers.

Clearly, if these simple guidelines are adhered to then construction site trenches nay not be so much of a danger. Everyone can do their bit, and likewise if you are a construction worker and suspect that the trench you are operating in could be unsafe, then it is advisable to report it to your employers. If they fail to do anything about it and accident occurs, then it is imperative that you contact an experienced workers compensation attorney Los Angeles.

Los Angeles and the surrounding areas have a high concentration of construction sites and as a result construction site injuries are commonplace. If you have been involved in an accident through no fault of your own, then it is possible that someone can be held liable and this is why you shouldn’t suffer in silence. Instead speak with an experienced team of workers compensation attorneys who can help.