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Trench collapses cause many construction workers’ injuries

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes strict safety standards for excavations and trenches on construction sites. Construction workers’ injuries cause many lost lives in Ohio and across the country each year. Safety authorities note that compliance with safety standards could prevent trench collapses. Nevertheless, a significant percentage of workers’ compensation claims involve trench-related incidents.

OSHA mandates that the walls of trenches with depths exceeding five feet must be sloped, shored or shielded — except excavations in solid rock. However, cave-ins are not the only safety hazard when it comes to trenches. Ramps, ladders or steps must provide quick exit routes for workers in emergencies. Each construction site must have a designated “competent person” to ensure compliance with OSHA safety standards. This person must inspect the trench before each shift, and more frequently if weather conditions change, to ensure the trench walls’ stability.

However, trench safety must not be limited to focusing on cave-ins because other dangers may threaten workers’ safety. Trench workers must wear the necessary personal protective equipment, including steel-toed boots, eye protection and hard hats. Other potential hazards include sewage, water and electricity, and the air quality must be checked to prevent workers from being exposed to toxic fumes or gases. Slips, trips and falls pose additional hazards, and heavy equipment, overhead loads and dropped objects could cause severe or even fatal injuries.

Victims of construction workers’ injuries in Ohio are typically eligible for financial relief through the state’s workers’ compensation insurance program. Injured workers can retain the services of an attorney with experience in helping victims of work-related injuries to navigate the benefits claims process. Medical expenses are always covered, even if no workdays were lost. However, those whose injuries caused temporary disability will receive a percentage of lost wages, and when partial or total disabilities result, additional benefits might form part of the compensation.