Construction sites contain numerous hazards that can harm laborers. Among these, trench accidents are less common than a slip-and-fall, but have a high chance of resulting in serious injuries for the workers. While these incidents may be caused by the dangerous nature of the work or the possible careless actions of an employee, the end result is often the same: devastating injuries and even fatalities.
At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, our New York construction accident lawyers have seen the devastation resulting from these incidents. Through our representation, injured victims or the families of those killed in trench accidents have received the compensation they deserved. Our compassion and insight into workers' compensation can help you find success. Call us at (212) 986-7353 for a no-cost consultation concerning your losses.
In order to lay pipes, cables, and wires underground laborers need to dig into the ground and work for extended periods of time within trenches. While these structures are reinforced with mesh, metal, and wood, they can still be unstable. The ground may shift over time because of continued work in the area and cause greater instability and eventually a collapse.
Trench accidents are categorized as a type of "caught-in-between" accident by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); one of the "Fatal Four" causes of injury and death among construction workers.
OSHA has requirements in place to protect construction workers in excavations and trenches, along with safety programs that address the unique dangers of working in trenches. Trenching and excavation hazards that cause the most injuries and fatalities fall into four major classifications:
- Lack of a Protective System - All trenches/excavations are inherently unstable. They involve small restricted spaces where the risks of water accumulation, toxic fume inhalation, and oxygen depletion greatly increase. If a job site has no protective system in place, workers are in danger of being crushed, inhaling toxic fumes, drowning, or suffocating.
- Failure to Complete Daily Inspections - Workers are in danger if excavations and trenches on a construction job site are not inspected every day for evidence of toxic fumes, possible cave-ins, presence of water, or other conditions that are unsafe. Inspections must be completed daily, prior to each shift, and after rain or movement of heavy equipment.
- Mishandling Spoil Piles - Spoil piles are piles of excavated material. If their placement is too near the side of a trench or an excavation, the weight can create the possibility of a cave-in. This also creates the risk of excavated materials rolling back in and covering workers in a trench. Equipment and spoils should never be placed near trenches and may need to be hauled away.
- Unsafe Access and Egress - Proper ramps, ladders, or stairs are required for entering and exiting trenches. Worker safety often depends on how fast they can climb out of a trench that has become dangerous. Ladders or other exit means must be placed within 25 lateral feet of construction workers in all trenches four feet or more in depth.
The most dangerous trenching hazards are cave-ins, though explosions, toxic fumes, lack of oxygen, below-ground water, and underground power lines are also potentially fatal.
During a cave-in, the integrity of a trench is compromised in some manner, causing part or all of it to collapse. Anyone working in the trench is likely to be partially or completely buried by dirt, rubble, and any other debris. Additionally, any equipment or vehicles in the area may be sent toppling, harming those operating them or working near them.
If buried by debris, a worker can receive crushing injuries, broken bones, and damaged organs. Should he or she be completely buried, suffocation can occur, which often results in brain damage or death if the worker is not rescued immediately.
In the wake of a trench collapse, those who survive are likely to have suffered severe trauma. Immediate and continued medical care is needed to aid in the recovery process, although permanent disabilities can result.
Workers' compensation is available to anyone injured while on the job in the course of his or her duties. This means that as long as a worker is supposed to be in or near a trench that collapsed while on the clock, he qualifies. Whatever the cause may be, workers' compensation can be paid to cover financial losses and help in the recovery process. Unfortunately, insurance companies might decline a claim to try to save money, in which case an experienced attorney can help with an appeal.
It may also be the case that a third party – such as a contractor, subcontractor, vendor, or building owner – was partially or wholly responsible for the trench accident. In that case, a civil lawsuit can be filed against that responsible party for additional costs not covered by NY workers’ comp.
In the wake of a serious work injury, the New York trench accident attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, can be a great aid in your time of need. You may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits, but that does not mean you will automatically receive them. A knowledgeable lawyer can help prove the validity of your claim and find the benefits to help you recover. We can also investigate your case to see if a third party may also be held liable for your damages.
Call us today at (212) 986-7353 to discuss your options in a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.
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