Increased Deaths in Trench Accidents Trigger More OSHA Scrutiny

correct safe trench sloping on a construction site

A collapse at an excavation site can be a nightmare for construction workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines an excavation as any artificial cavity formed by earth removal and a trench as a narrow excavation. OSHA estimates that a cave-in of just one cubic yard of soil can carry the weight of a compact car. In other words, a trench collapse is a serious accident that can have severe consequences.

The New York City construction accident attorneys at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., recognize the seriousness of excavation collapses and the impact they can have on a victim’s quality of life and ability to earn a living.

We want you to understand your rights to refuse to enter a dangerous construction site and your rights if a cave-in injures you. If you’re under pressure to work in unsafe conditions or have suffered injuries in an excavation accident, contact us immediately for a free consultation.

Are Excavation Deaths on the Rise?

Recent OSHA statistics show a shocking increase in excavation and trenching fatalities. The agency found that 22 people died in such accidents in the first half of 2022 alone. That is a significant increase over 2021 when only 15 trench-related deaths occurred in total.

How Is OSHA Addressing the Crisis?

OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation details the agency’s plan to perform site inspections to ensure safety protocols are followed. OSHA enforcement officers will consider a range of penalties for violations and may refer employers to federal and state prosecutors for criminal charges when a workplace is deemed unsafe.

Further, OSHA’s Slope It. Shore It. Shield It website provides employers with resources on excavation site safety. The agency plans to augment its educational outreach by offering local safety summits for employers nationwide. In addition, through its On-Site Consultation Program, OSHA offers free and confidential safety consulting services to small and medium-sized businesses.

Considering the risks at stake and the increased response from OSHA, your employer has no excuse to operate an unsafe excavation and trenching workplace in New York City.

When Should I Refuse to Go into a Construction Site Trench?

Workers should not have to do their jobs at an unprotected excavation site and should never be forced to do so.

The OSHA guide to Trenching and Excavation Safety lists mandatory safety precautions, including:

  • Trenches 5 feet deep or more must have a trench protection system.
  • Excavations of 4 feet or deeper must have secured ladders every 25 feet.
  • Underground utilities must be located and marked before digging. Any exposed pipes must be protected or reinforced to prevent damage.
  • Excavated material must be kept at least 2 feet away from the edge of the trench.
  • A “competent person” must perform daily inspections before work can begin. OSHA defines a competent person as one capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions that are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees. A competent person can take prompt corrective measures to eliminate such situations.

If your employer has failed to comply with these precautions, you should refuse to enter the construction site.

Contact Our NYC Excavation Accident Lawyers Today

New York Labor Code Sections 200, 240, and 241 impose a duty to maintain safe workplaces on employers, property owners, contractors, and others. They are liable under the law should they fail to do so.

If you’re being forced to work in unsafe conditions or have been injured in an excavating and trenching accident in NYC, contact the experienced attorneys at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., for a free consultation. We’ve recovered over half a billion dollars for injured victims, and we’re ready to help you seek the compensation you deserve.

For over 40 years, David H. Perecman has distinguished himself as one of the leading personal injury lawyers in New York City, championing all types of personal injury cases including construction accidents, premises accidents, automobile accidents, and medical malpractice, along with employment discrimination, false arrest, and civil rights cases.