From June 17 to June 21, safety authorities will reinforce the importance of compliance with trench-related safety regulations. During the Trench Safety Stand Down, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will remind employers and employees of the potential hazards that could cause severe or fatal construction workers’ accidents. The agency reports that more than 50 lives are lost in trench collapses nationwide each year, including California.

Trench collapses are the primary hazards that can be prevented by implementing systems that involve sloping, shoring or shielding. The designated competent person must determine the method to be used after evaluating soil stability, weather conditions and more. Toxic atmospheres in trenches with depths exceeding four feet has claimed many lives, and frequent testing for harmful gases or oxygen depletion is crucial. If necessary, workers must be equipped with properly fitted respirators.

Vehicles and other mobile equipment pose further hazards, especially if the excavated areas are not clearly marked or barricaded. Spotters or flaggers can also prevent vehicles from coming too close to trenches and hitting workers or compromising the stability of the walls. Unmarked excavations also pose fall hazards, not only for workers but also for equipment that can be dropped onto workers inside the trench, causing potentially fatal crushing injuries. This is also the reason why no overhead work on raised areas above excavations must be allowed.

Hitting utility lines is another significant risk that could lead to fatal construction workers’ accidents. When this happens, the surviving family members might be entitled to claim death benefits from the California workers’ compensation insurance system. An experienced attorney can assist with the benefits claims process, which will cover funeral and burial costs and will include a financial package to cover lost wages.