From 2000 to 2006, nearly 300 construction workers died when a trench in which they were standing caved-in on them. “There are four types of trench collapse,” said Syracuse personal injury lawyer Michael A. Bottar, Esq., of Bottar Law, PLLC, a New York law firm representing workers disabled in a trench collapse. “Each is preventable.”
One type of trench collapse is known as a “soil pile slide.” A soil pile slide occurs when dirt removed from the trench is piled too close to the edge. If the dirt is piled too high, becomes too wet, or is exposed to vibration fro machinery, it may slide back into the hole. Even though the soil pile slide is the most common trench collapse, it causes few fatalities. The second type of trench collapse is known as a “shear wall collapse.” A shear wall collapse occurs when the top part of the trench wall breaks free from the surrounding earth and fills the trench. Shear wall collapses occur most often in clay-based soil. They occur without warning and usually result in fatalities because, on average, 2-3 yards of soil weighing 5-8,000 pounds can fill the trench. The third type of trench collapse is known as a “belly slough.” A belly slough occurs when the middle part of the trench wall (i.e., the belly) breaks free from the surrounding earth and fills the trench. A belly slough usually occurs around underground utilities or where there is running water near the trench. This type of cave in usually results in deep burial and worker fatalities. The fourth type of trench collapse is known as a “lip slide.” A lip slide occurs when the lip of the trench fractures and a small portion of dirt falls into the trench. Sometimes, a lip slide will precede or cause a soil pile slide or shear wall collapse.
Click here to view the CDC and NIOSH web-based training tutorial called “Trench Safety Awareness,” with trench collapse animations. While trench cave-ins can be prevented with sloping, benching, shoring and shielding, many contractors fail to take steps to protect workers. Recently, OSHA found that two trenches in Hahira, Georgia were dangerous because they lacked trench cave-in protection. There was no shield system in place. While on site, OSHA also found that the contractor failed to have a ladder on site to gain safe access to the trench, that employees were exposed to unreasonable fall hazards, and that employees were not properly trained about excavation hazards.
Construction sites can be dangerous, especially where property owners, contractors and subcontractors do not protect workers from known hazards. If you were injured in a New York trench collapse and would like to learn about you right to seek compensation for, e.g., lost wages and medical bills, including but not limited to Workers Compensation, contact our legal team at (833) 268-8277 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.