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  • Writer's pictureJohn Larrimer

Unsupported Trenches Cost Construction Company More Than $50,000

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated Duce Construction Co. over concerns about its workers’ safety at a job site in Savoy, IL. The company received four citations – three serious and one willful – for exposing workers to trenching and cave-in hazards at the job site.

In excavation, cave-ins are the greatest threat to employee safety. Soil is dense and can be extremely heavy, so OSHA requires that every trench deeper than five feet have a protective system to keep the walls from falling in. If the trench is deeper than 20 feet, the protective system must be designed by a qualified engineer.

How to Protect Workers from Cave-In Hazards

OSHA recognizes four different types of protective systems:

Benching – using the sides of the trench to create horizontal steps or levels.

Sloping – digging the trench so that the walls form an angle inclined away from the excavation.

Shoring – installing supports (usually aluminum hydraulic supports) to reinforce the walls of the trench and prevent cave-ins.

Shielding – using trench boxes and other protective equipment to prevent cave-ins.

In the case of Duce Construction Co., the company used trench boxes but failed to use them properly, still exposing the workers to cave-in hazards. Management also violated OSHA regulations by allowing soil to be piled within two feet of the edge of excavation and failing to provide workers with a means of escape, like a ladder or pathway.

The company violated another OSHA regulation when they exposed their workers to vehicular traffic without safety vests to warn drivers of their presence. All in all, the violations will cost the company $59,500. If the company wishes to contest OSHA’s findings, it has 15 days to do so.

Every year, hundreds of workers are injured in cave-ins due to unsupported trenches. Construction companies know the risk, but they continue to allow their employees to work in unsupported trenches without protection. Whether it is due to negligence, impatience or greed, these companies are risking the lives and health of their workers for a job. If you were injured while working in unsafe conditions, call Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC to learn more about your rights. We fight for workers and their right to work safely.

[Did You Know: One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car.]

Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC—Columbus Workers Comp Attorneys


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