Raleigh residents may pass by excavation projects without giving much thought to the dangers workers at those sites face. A trench is just a hole in the ground, right? Not to people who understand how quickly a worker can be injured or die when dirt walls in a trench collapse.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is very specific about the protective measures companies must take when a trench is dug. Trenches are longer than they are wide and the greater the depth, the more protection a worker needs. Safety rules kick in for trenches as shallow as five feet deep.

Government regulators are strict about shoring up walls in trenches. On average, two U.S. workers are killed in trench cave-ins every month. A 46-year-old North Carolina man recently died in a trench accident while working on a Mint Hill water pipe installation project.

The collapse took place just after a backhoe lowered the man into the trench in a bucket. A worker can die quickly in a trench accident. The weight of one cubic yard of dirt is the same as an automobile.

OSHA is investigating the fatality, including the safety history and employee training records of the victim’s Indian Trail employer, One Grade, Inc. Reports didn’t say how deep, long or wide the trench was, but federal investigators will take those factors into consideration before determining whether an OSHA violation occurred. A report on the accident will be prepared within six months.

Trench cave-ins can be prevented with proper protection. Federal rules recommend cutting steps or slopes in excavations or employing hydraulic supports or trench boxes, depending on the trench size and soil makeup. Unfortunately, some employers ignore safety rules or fail to secure a trench improperly.

Workers injured in construction site accidents receive benefits from workers’ compensation. An attorney can facilitate the claims process and seek out other monetary relief through liability lawsuits, when applicable.

Source: WBTV, “Officials ID worker killed in Mint Hill trench collapse” WBTV Web Staff, Jun. 11, 2014