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Trench collapse causes fatal on-the-job injury

Employees of cities nationwide are exposed to numerous safety hazards, and it is no different in California. Workers employed in departments such as Public Works, Public Utilities and Public Safety are entitled to the same protection against on-the-job injury as those in private companies. The February death of a worker has lead to a city in another state receiving several citations for serious safety violations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The OSHA investigation followed a trench collapse when workers were repairing a sewer line. A 31-year-old worker was shoveling gravel stones underneath the leaking sewer line in a 7-foot by 22-foot trench. According to reports, one wall of the trench collapsed and buried him up to his chest in heavy soil. It was reported that he was also struck on the back by a heavy piece of asphalt.

The worker was trapped for almost half-an-hour before he was rescued. During this time, he suffered traumatic asphyxia, and the blunt force trauma he suffered to his trunk caused lung contusions, bleeding, and multiple pelvic and rib fractures. He was taken to a hospital but later succumbed to his injuries. Safety violations that caused this preventable death included the failure to properly secure the trench walls and failure to check the atmosphere at the bottom of the trench to determine oxygen levels prior to allowing workers to enter it.

California workers in any industry have the right to safe work environments. If as worker suffers an on-the-job injury, benefit claims for medical expenses and lost wages may be pursued through the workers' compensation insurance fund. When a worker's life is lost in a workplace accident, this insurance system offers death benefits to the surviving dependents. This typically covers end-of-life expenses and some level of financial aid that is based on the latest salary earned by the deceased worker.

Source: wistv.com, "City faces $12K in penalties after employee death", LaDonna Beeker, July 21, 2015

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