5 Causes of Trench Collapses and Your Workers Comp Rights

There are a number of factors that can contribute to a trench collapse. Here is what you can do to stay safe.

The construction industry comes with numerous injury risks for workers. A lot of the incidents happen in the building’s trenches, often resulting in debilitating injuries or even death. Numerous causes can lead to trench collapses, but more often than not it has to do with improper safety precautions taken by the workers or site managers.

Before we list the causes, it is important to make sure you contact a St. Louis work injury lawyer if you’ve been the victim of a trench collapse. They will help educate you on your rights and can help you obtain all of the benefits you are legally entitled to.

Now, let’s take a look at the factors that can contribute to a trench collapse and what should be done to prevent that.

Trench Accident Lawyer St. Louis

The Vertical Walls Are Not Properly Stabilized

The stabilization of the vertical walls of the trench depends on various factors, such as the depth of the trench, the type of soil that is dug into, weather conditions and so on. One way to do it is by sloping, meaning that the sides of the hole open out from the excavation. Benching is a type of sloping that is done by cutting steps into the slopes, making the trench narrow. Sloping and benching are not fit for all situations. If the trenches are deep, for example, then an engineer must approve the plan of the sloping.

If the construction plan does not allow sloping or benching, and a narrow trench is needed, then the workers must install supportive walls or boxes to protect themselves from cave-ins. Metal or wood are best to keep the vertical walls of the trench in place. The workers must install the proper reinforcement correctly. Otherwise, the safety measures may not be effective.

The Soil Is Destabilized by Vibrations around and on Site

Workers should also consider the vibrations around and on the site when digging a trench and working in it. Vibration levels can get quite high on a construction site and they can easily destabilize the soil in the trench, leading to cave-ins.

Heavy Machinery That Is Left on the Edge of the Trench

Any pressure put on the vertical walls of the trench can cause a cave-in and potential victims. Workers should be extremely cautious with what they leave at the edge of the trench. Many times, heavy machinery is left right at the edge, pushing the soil downwards. The soil that is removed from the trench (spoil bank) should also be placed further away from the edges.

The Daily Inspections of the Trench Are Skipped

Because the trench stability can easily change from one day to another, due to weather conditions or other factors, a qualified person must check the trench’s safety daily

Exposure to Hazardous Utility Lines

When working in a trench, construction workers get in touch with utility lines that can be dangerous, exposing them to electrocution, toxic fumes, drowning, etc.

If you had an injury when working in a trench that collapsed, you are generally entitled to workers compensation. In addition to that, you may be able to sue a third party for negligence if the above situations happened due to improper safety measures.

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Updated: April 4, 2024