Construction workers in Minnesota are no doubt aware that excavations and trenches are among the most dangerous areas of their job site. OSHA defines an excavation as a cut, cavity, trench or depression made in the ground through the artificial removal of earth. As for a trench, this is a deep, narrow underground excavation.

The danger of cave-ins and falls

Workers in excavations and trenches run the risk for cave-ins over anything else, but they may also be in danger of falling into these cavities, being crushed by falling equipment or being suffocated in a hazardous atmosphere. Trenches may collapse, too.

How employers are to protect against these

OSHA requires that trenches be inspected daily and that there be a safe and sturdy means to enter and exit the trench, such as a ladder or ramp. Trenches that are 5 feet or deeper and that are not made in stable rock require some kind of professionally designed protective system.

One could, for instance, cut the trench wall at an angle that inclines away from the excavation work. This is a process called sloping. Shoring systems are another possibility; these prevent soil movement. There are numerous other rules to comply with. OSHA requires that employers:

• Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges
• Test trenches for toxic fumes and low oxygen
• Inspect trenches after a rainstorm

Legal representation for injured workers

When construction incidents leave employees injured, these accidents can form the basis for workers’ compensation claims. If a worker’s claim is successful, an employee may be covered for their medical bills, short- or long-term disability leave and a portion of the income they lost during their physical recovery. If you were injured at work, you may want a lawyer to assist with your claim and with any appeals because the employer does have the right to deny payment.