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Are you in danger of a trench collapse?

One of the most insidious types of construction accidents is a trench collapse, as it can occur with little or no warning.

In the nine years between 2000-2009, on average, every year 35 laborers died as a result of trench cave-ins, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

When considering all of the dangers that can befall construction workers on the job, piles of dirt may appear relatively benign. However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reminds industry insiders that just one cubic yard of earth may weigh over 3,000 lbs.

Below are some factors that could potentially affect the stability of the dirt used at excavation and sites.

-- Types of soil

-- The content of water in the soil

-- The proximity of the site to any prior back-filled excavations

-- Whether heavy equipment or tools are located nearby

-- Whether there are any vibrations from heavy machinery on-site

According to guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), all trenches five- or more feet deep require protective shoring systems unless the excavation is composed completely of stable rock.

NIOSH offers workers some safety tips for avoiding danger at excavation and trenching sites:

-- Never assume you will be able to take evasive action to avoid being buried under an avalanche of dirt.

-- Inspect protected trenches before entering.

-- Refuse to enter unprotected trenches.

-- If problems with protective shoring systems are evident, immediately exit the trench and summon the designated "competent person" with an understanding of OSHA regulations who is able to recognize and correct hazards. Insist the competent person inspect the trench and protection system.

If you are injured in a trench collapse, you will likely be entitled to financial remuneration through California worker's compensation benefits.

Source: Safety Health, "Be aware of trench collapse dangers," accessed May 17, 2017

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