When employers in Minnesota allow excavation workers to enter an unprotected trench, they are placing those individuals at a serious risk of injury and death. Unprotected trench walls can suddenly collapse on workers without giving any kind of warning. At around 3,000 pounds, a single cubic yard of dirt has more than enough weight to suffocate or crush a trench worker.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the typical hazards that are associated with excavation work are easy to predict and prevent. Employers can use a number of different protective systems to successfully prevent trench cave-ins. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires the use of protective systems in trenches that are at least 5 feet deep.
One of the ways that excavators can protect workers from the possibility of a trench cave-in is to slope the ground near the trench that is being dug. Employers could also use a trench box or shore the trench walls using hydraulic jacks. In addition to using a protective system for a trench, employers must have the trench regularly inspected by a person who is qualified to do so. Heavy equipment, tools and vehicles should also be placed at a safe distance away from the trench.
A person who has been injured in a workplace accident involving a trench may want to get in touch with an attorney while they are recovering. An attorney may be able to assist the injured worker with the process of filing a workers' compensation claim and any other relevant third-party claims.