Construction workers in Colorado often have to work in trenches. The collapse of a trench is a common cause for construction injuries, and collapses can threaten the lives of workers in a variety of operations. Unprotected trenches can potentially be death traps, and workers must not be expected to work in such dangerous conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited two Colorado construction companies who failed to protect employees who work in trenches.
One company was inspected after OSHA received a complaint about unsafe trenches on its construction site. It was found that workers were unprotected from cave-ins and were not provided with ways to safely exit trenches with depths exceeding 4 feet. OSHA reminded the employer that unsupported trenches could collapse in an instant and often cause severe or fatal injuries to workers.
The second company was cited when a compliance officer of OSHA visited its construction site and noticed workers in unprotected trenches that could have collapsed at any time. There are various protective systems available for supporting trenches and protecting workers. Trained inspectors must evaluate all trenches for potential dangers prior to the commencement of work, and appropriate protection systems must be installed. Trenches must be monitored throughout, and until completion of, the operations.
Colorado workers who suffer construction injuries ordinarily may not sue their employers for negligence. Instead, most workers are entitled to seek damages within the framework of the workers’ compensation insurance fund. This is a no-fault system, and injured workers do not have to prove that their injuries were caused by the negligence of another person in order to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. If a worker died in a construction accident, his or her surviving family may be entitled to claim death benefits.
Source: ABC Denver, “2 construction firms cited, fined for failng to protect workers from trench cave-ins, OSHA says“, Deb Stanley, April 29, 2015