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Death benefits claims are not what an employer wants to see

There is undeniable evidence that trenches pose life-threatening risks to construction workers nationwide, including in Colorado. Nevertheless, death benefits claims continue to be filed by family members whose loved ones died in collapsed trenches. The president of a risks management company in another state says three aspects are common to cave-ins of excavations -- inadequate safety training, cutting corners to speed up projects and failure to establish a safety culture.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidelines to prevent trench walls from collapsing. However, some construction company owners offer managers and supervisors bonuses for completing jobs on time and below estimated budgets. Safety costs money, and by forgoing on costly trench boxes and other safety equipment, the savings -- of money, not lives -- might ensure a bonus.

Although having a written safety policy is important, monitoring job sites to ensure compliance is even more important. The physical presence of safety supervisors on construction sites can save lives -- especially when dangerous activities such as trenching take place. Considering that a collapsing trench wall can bury a worker under as much as 3,000 pounds of soil makes one wonder why some employers continue to send employees into unprotected trenches.

Colorado companies that involve their workers in trenching activities must provide safety training and ensure all employees are aware of the hazards they will face. Any surviving family members of a construction worker who died in a workplace accident will be entitled to file death benefits claims with the workers' compensation insurance system for the state. This can serve to ease the financial burden caused by an unanticipated death of a loved one.

Source: constructiondive.com, "Life in the trenches: Why supervision and safety programs matter", Kim Slowey, July 27, 2017

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