Recently, a 40-year-old construction worker was at a worksite in Queens, New York. He was overseeing the construction of a building foundation and the process of laying rebar. Unfortunately, a wall of dirt fell onto the man, burying him to above his head. He had to be pulled out of the collapsed trench by firefighters and was taken to the hospital where he was listed in critical condition. One source indicated that while he had a pulse at the time he was rescued from the collapsed trench, his body had turned blue due to the difficulty in getting oxygen since the dirt had fell atop his head and crushed him.
Trenches are very dangerous on construction sites and there are supposed to be strict precautions taken to ensure a collapse cannot occur. Unfortunately, safety procedures and protocols are not always followed. Whenever a trench collapse occurs and causes injuries, a New York workers’ compensation law firm should be consulted by the affected workers (or by their surviving family members if the trench collapse was fatal). Treating injuries caused by trench problems can be costly and a career in construction may be interrupted or ended, so workers need to ensure they are getting the benefits they need to provide for themselves and families after being injured.
According to the New York Daily News, the trench collapse in Queens that necessitated the emergency rescue led to a stop-work order being issued. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) usually conducts investigations when workplace injuries are reported, particularly in cases where injuries are critical or where a worker is killed. If OSHA determines any violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act occurred, the employer could be cited and fined for failure to follow workplace safety rules surrounding trenches.
Following all guidelines to prevent trench collapse is essential because of the significant risks that exist when working in and around trenches. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that an average of 54 percent of people die each year on construction sites as a result of trenching or excavation cave-ins. The majority — 68 percent — of the people who died at construction sites due to trench or excavation problems worked for small companies that had 10 workers or fewer.
Smaller workplaces may face more challenges implementing the engineering controls that are necessary to prevent trench collapses, but there is no justification for any employer not following regulations to protect workers from the threat of trench collapse. Personal protective equipment should be provided, safe work practices should be followed at all times, and trenches should be reinforced during all excavating projects to avoid a potentially deadly collapse.
When a victim sustains injuries due to a problem with a trench, the injured employee should get medical bills paid and disability benefits through workers’ compensation. Typically, employers cannot be sued under NY workers’ compensation laws but third-party non-employers could be sued if their negligence contributed to the trench collapse. Contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff today. We help victims and their families understand all options for maximizing recovery of benefits and compensation following a trench collapse.