Construction workers are aware that they face high risks on the job. They often work at great heights on worksites, lift heavy loads and operate heavy machinery – all of which involve a serious risk of injury.
However, one of the most serious risks that construction workers face involves working in excavating and trenching. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that fatalities due to trench collapses more than doubled in 2016, and the rate of worker fatalities is still increasing.
Why are fatalities increasing?
The 2016 report states that trench collapses are entirely preventable – as long as contractors and construction companies comply with OSHA’s safety standards. But many might wonder what caused the increase in these fatalities.
While there is no specific reason provided in the 2016 report, OSHA did find in 2019 that the most common causes behind trench collapses include:
- Lack of a proper entrance or exit from the trench, such as a ladder;
- Failure to inspect trenches daily; and
- Water accumulation within the trench or the ground around the trench.
Therefore, it seems that the reason these collapses and fatalities are increasing is the failure to follow OSHA’s standards and ensure trench safety.
What must workers do?
Employers must take steps to ensure the workplace is safe. And when it comes to excavation and trenching, OSHA requires employers to have a competent person inspect the trenches every day for safety hazards.
Even so, Georgia workers must make sure that every time they must excavate a trench or work in the trench, they:
- Understand the site’s protective systems;
- Check the trench is protected;
- Inspect the trench, even if it was inspected earlier; and
- Make sure they keep all equipment away from the edge of the trench.
It is easy for workers to overlook safety precautions when there is so much to be done at work, but workers must follow the proper steps to stay safe when excavating and avoid putting their lives at risk in the face of trench collapses.