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Construction workers' accidents: Mitigation of trench hazards

Trenches pose potentially deadly hazards. A significant number of construction workers' accidents in California involve unprotected trenches. State and federal safety authorities mandate that a competent person identifies existing dangers and also predictable safety risks before workers enter a trench. Because each excavation poses unique hazards, every job needs individual care and proper preparation.

Before digging a trench, factors that could cause risks must be evaluated. The proximity of traffic and surrounding structures will play a role along with soil classification and the presence of both surface and groundwater. The current and predicted weather must also be considered. Once the decision is made to excavate the trench, the necessary protective systems must be established.

The access and egress methods must be planned, and the need for fall protection determined. However, the most important consideration is to determine the appropriate system to prevent cave-ins. Depending on various factors, the options include sloping or benching the sides, supporting the walls or placing a shield or trench box to separate the walls of the trench and the workers. Furthermore, arrangements to locate utilities must be made, and the possibility of hazardous atmospheres in deep trenches must be considered.

Workers in California must keep in mind that they have the right to refuse to enter an unprotected trench. A cave-in can happen in the blink of an eye, and survival chances are limited. Victims of construction workers' accidents might be eligible for state-regulated workers' compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages. Many choose to utilize the services of an attorney who is experienced in the navigation of benefits claims to simplify the complicated process.

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