Trench Collapses Are Among The Most Dangerous And Deadly Construction Accidents
Many who do not work in construction fail to appreciate just how dangerous trenches can be. But what initially looks like an elongated hole in the ground can actually be a deathtrap. According to statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there has been a noticeable and concerning rise in trench collapse fatalities nationwide between 2020 and 2023.
If you were seriously injured or lost someone you love in a construction-related trench collapse in Illinois, contact Anesi Ozmon, LTD. Our team of dedicated attorneys has more than 200 years of combined legal experience advocating for victims of workplace accidents, personal injury and wrongful death. They can help you understand and exercise all available legal options, including pursuing litigation in addition to a workers’ compensation claim.
What Are Trench Collapses, And Why Do They Happen?
Whenever a worker is standing in a trench that is deeper than the worker’s total height, they are susceptible to the dangers of sudden soil movement. Trench collapses are cave-ins that occur when the earthen material on the side of a trench collapses inward to fill the open space.
These accidents occur for numerous reasons, including:
- Inadequate soil testing – It is critical for planners to test the soil to ensure that it is strong and compact enough to maintain its shape. If the soil is already unstable, it likely cannot withstand the additional weight of heavy equipment.
- Improper sloping or failure to slope – The walls of a trench should slope outward as they rise to minimize the risk and force soil collapse. The specific sloping requirements depend on the type of soil and other considerations.
- Lack of safety equipment – In addition to sloping, the other two safeguards against trench collapse are shoring and shielding. Shoring involves installing hydraulic pistons or other equipment to exert force outward against the surrounding soil. Shielding involves using equipment like “trench boxes” that protect workers if a cave-in does occur.
- Failure to retest and adapt to changing conditions – The integrity of soil can change quickly, especially if the ground is soaked by a rainstorm or water from a leaking pipe. Site managers must test frequently, adapt to changing conditions and stop work when conditions become too risky.
Lack of safety equipment is, sadly, one of the most common and preventable causes of fatal accidents. In many cases, the equipment is on-site but isn’t being used because foremen or site managers believe it takes too much time and effort to install.
The biggest risk to workers caught in a trench collapse is death, usually due to suffocation. Electrocution from underground wires can also occur. When workers survive, they may suffer broken bones, crushing injuries and psychological injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Know Your Legal Options After A Trench Collapse Accident
If you were a worker fortunate enough to survive what is often a fatal accident, chances are that you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits at the very least. If the accident was due to negligence on the part of a subcontractor or someone other than your employer, you could pursue additional damages in a third-party liability lawsuit.
Similarly, if a family member was killed in a trench collapse, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits. Our attorneys can also discuss your options for pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party or parties.