The number of fatalities due to trench collapses at worksites more than doubled from 2015 to 2016. (Though falls remain the most dangerous type of workplace injury.) Trench collapses at New York construction sites are usually caused by improper safety techniques, lack of training, or a failure by those in charge to keep the site safe.
In response to this dramatic uptick in collapses, OSHA has begun leveling serious violations and fines against companies that fail to keep their workers safe, and criminal charges have been filed in some cases.
Rise in Trench Collapse Deaths
Although trench collapses may not be the most dangerous types of construction accidents in terms of total deaths each year, fatalities from these accidents have increased sharply.
The response from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has been swift and simple: financial penalties and criminal charges. High fines have been leveled against companies not conducting safe behavior or properly training workers, sometimes more than $1 million. In several cases, criminal manslaughter charges were also brought against the company’s owners, site foremen, and other employees responsible for making sure the worksites remain safe.
When a cave-in occurs in a trench, workers can be quickly buried and unable to breathe, not only because of dirt and debris covering their mouths, but also because just a single cubic yard of dirt can weigh 3,000 pounds. Construction workers must be properly trained in how to safely form and maintain a trench, and companies need to provide the correct equipment and reinforce safe conduct on the site.
What You Can Do
If you work on a construction site, always follow proper safety procedures at all times, especially when on a ladder or scaffold, or when around or in a trench. If you see anything that is inappropriate or unsafe, report it to a foreman or a person who has the power to take action and correct the situation. Should your report go unheeded, you should contact OSHA to file a report about a safety violation you have witnessed.
Even if you follow all the right steps, however, someone else’s lack of caring can result in you being injured. If you or someone you know has been injured due to a workplace trench accident in New York, call Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin, LLP, right now at (212) 986-7353.