Trenches present some of the most deadly hazards in the construction injury, and employers nationwide, including in Colorado, must comply with safety regulations. Compliance is the only way in which to prevent tragedies that sometimes leave families with nothing more than workers’ compensation death benefits. This was the fate of a family in another state after the death of a 19-year-old worker in a trench.
On June 11, the young construction worker entered am excavation in the company of his foreman and three more laborers to lay a sewage pipe. Reportedly, the trench was 5 feet wide and 48 feet long, with a depth of just more than 12 feet. However, the trench box that was placed inside the excavation to protect the workers within was only 2 feet wide and 16 feet long, with walls measuring no more than 8 feet. Because the trench box was more than 4 feet too short, it provided no protection for the workers when a heap of dirt, soil, rubble and cement that resulted from the excavation collapsed.
One worker was buried up to his waist, and rescuers managed to bring him to safety after working for more than four hours. However, the 19-year-old was entirely buried under the spoil, and he did not survive — it took the rescue team a further two hours to recover his body. According to regulations prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, trench boxes can be used to prevent cave-ins. However, the walls of the box must equal or exceed the height of the trench walls. Also, an appropriately qualified competent person must evaluate the safety of the job site and before work commences, only workers who have received proper safety training must work in trenches.
This was just one more fatal construction accident that could have been prevented. Under such circumstances, the surviving family members of a deceased worker may file a claim for death benefits with the workers’ compensation insurance program. Some Colorado families choose to retain the services of an experienced workers’ comp attorney to pursue survivors’ benefits for them.
Source: safetyandhealthmagazine.com, “FACEValue: Construction worker dies in trench collapse“, June 25, 2017