For many New Jersey construction workers, trench and excavation labor can pose a particular danger of workplace accidents or injuries. While the construction industry overall poses a significant risk of on-the-job injuries due to the use of heavy physical labor and machinery in uncompleted structures, collapses, cave-ins and falls can make the underground cuts and caverns in trenches and excavations particularly risk-prone. Trenches and excavations can be a major part of piping, roadwork, foundation building and other important efforts, so improving workplace safety is particularly critical.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has identified improvement in workplace safety in trenches and excavations as a priority goal for 2018. This comes after 2016 statistics indicated that fatalities that year doubled over the average that had remained steady over the previous five years. From 2011 through 2015, approximately two workers were killed each month due to collapses in trenches and excavations. In response, the agency is working to build awareness about preventative actions and technologies that can reduce the threat of fatalities and other serious injuries.
OSHA noted the importance of protective systems in trenches, urging that refusing to enter an unprotected trench should be a standard. In fact, trenches 5 feet deep or larger are required to have protective systems built in; trenches 20 feet deep or greater require the assistance of a professional engineer in ensuring safety for construction workers.
The new OSHA effort can be very welcome, but workers continue to face the risk of serious injury on a daily basis on construction sites, including in trenches and excavations. Workers who have been injured on the job have a right to compensation for their losses. A workers compensation attorney may assist employees in protecting their rights, challenging violations of safety standards and securing the compensation to which they may be entitled.