Construction workers in Maryland may not be entirely aware of the dangers of trenching and excavation activities. However, working in unprotected trenches can be particularly dangerous and can lead to death if walls collapse.
One reason trenches are so dangerous is that trench walls can collapse suddenly and with no reliable warning. A cubic yard of dirt can weigh over 3,000 pounds, and a worker who does not have time to escape a collapsing trench can suffocate or be crushed to death. Lack of a protective system was cited as being the leading cause of trench-related deaths from 2000 to 2009. Generally, sloping or benching the ground or shoring the trench is required by OSHA for trenches that are deeper than 5 feet.
Recommendations from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for employers include designating a competent worker to monitor safety measures, evaluating the stability of the soil and ensuring that all employees have adequate training. Additionally, ladders and other exits should never be more than 25 feet from workers in a trench, and any sign of future collapse, such as accumulation of water in the trench or protective system issues, should cease work in the trench.
Construction workers who have been injured as a result of a trench collapse, they should be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits to cover the cost of their recovery. If a worker is killed while working, on the other hand, their surviving family members may be entitled to receive survivors’ benefits if the worker was the main breadwinner. A lawyer may be able to help an injured worker or their family in beginning the process of filing for benefits.
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