Working in trenches in Illinois is very dangerous, making safety programs and regulations important to protect workers. Without the proper supports, trench walls can collapse, trapping workers who are inside of them. A single cubic foot of dirt may weigh as much as 3,000 pounds, and workers may be suffocated and killed when they are trapped in collapsed trenches. Because of the dangers that trench work poses, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has multiple regulations in place governing work in trenches and trench supports. The agency also mandates that companies have safety programs in place for workers who work in and around trenches.
When workers are seriously injured or killed in trench accidents, a workers comp lawyer may help the workers or their families to recover benefits from the employers’ workers compensation insurance policies to pay for their medical expenses and other related costs. If the workers are disabled or they are killed, the attorney may recover monthly benefits to replace a portion of their lost income.
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According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, trenching accident deaths more than doubled in 2016 over the prior year. OSHA reports that a majority of these accidents could have been prevented if the companies had implemented and followed the safety standards that are outlined by the agency. When companies do not follow the safety standards and workers are killed, the companies may be criminally prosecuted. Despite the risks, trenching fatalities continue to occur. They are primarily due to three factors, including workers who have inadequate training, careless work site safety cultures and attempts to cut corners in order to meet job deadlines. Employers must have safety programs in place, and their programs must include a strong training component.
Trench Safety Programs
Workers should be trained in trench safety before they begin working in trenches. They should periodically receive updates so that their training stays current. Employers should also make certain that their trenches have good supports that comply with OSHA standards. Workers should be trained to refuse to enter trenches that do not comply with safety standards until the trenches are fixed. General contractors who will have subcontractors working on their sites should require the subcontractors to submit safety plans prior to using them. If those plans are not stringent, they should require them to write new plans before beginning work. Good safety programs can help to prevent trench accidents.