Construction sites are naturally dangerous. Safety regulations are in place for a reason, but time and again, we hear of accidents that could have been prevented, if only these guidelines were more closely followed.
Last month, a construction worker in Falls Church was working in a trench, replacing a water line, when the trench collapsed, trapping him for almost eight hours.
Initially, the man was only trapped in a few feet of dirt at the bottom of the 20-foot trench, but a second collapse happened while his colleagues were digging him out, trapping him in dirt and mud up to his chest.
Rescuers finally installed a trench box to prevent a third collapse, but the question seems obvious—why wasn’t there a trench box present in the first place?
A trench box, or trench shield, is a steel or aluminum structure consisting of sidewalls of varying thicknesses held apart by spreaders.
OSHA offers numerous directives regarding the proper sloping, shoring and shielding required when excavating or otherwise working in ditches. They also make it quite clear that extensive soil analysis must be performed before this kind of work can even begin.
What this means is that supervisors on the site knew the dangers present, yet still chose to save a few dollars by cutting corners.
The construction company’s owner insists it was rain that caused the accident and not improper safety measures, even though members of the crew have gone on record otherwise. One co-worker told supervisors, “That’s a pretty big hole. It should be shored up. That’s pretty dangerous.”
The owner, though, refused to listen, and now one his crew has spent eight hours buried in the cold earth, eventually rescued but with a set of crushed ribs to show for his day on the job. He is currently in the hospital, in serious condition, but expected to survive.
My Construction Site Doesn’t Follow Safety Regulations. What Can I Do?
A construction company’s blatant disregard for the safety of its employees is unacceptable. Letting even a single instance of this kind of treatment happen sends a message to other business owners that they can get away with it too. Cutting corners on safety is not an option.
If you have been injured on the job, we want to hear your story. The more these stories are shared, the safer our jobsites will become for both workers and civilians. Visit our Facebook page and tell us about your experiences.
Koonz’s Did You Know: According the Department of Labor, falls, struck by object, electrocution and caught-in/between were the leading causes of death on construction sites in 2012.
Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, L.L.P.