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The dangers of excavation and trenching

The construction industry is full of hazards, especially when it comes to excavation and trenching, as many Pennsylvania workers know. In fact, compared with those who work in general construction, construction workers involved in excavation work are more likely to suffer a fatal injury.

One of the greatest dangers involved in trenching is when the unstable ground around a trench caves in. Workers performing excavation or trenching work can also be fatally injured by other factors such as inhaling toxic fumes, suffocation and drowning. However, if workers are using proper safety equipment in accordance to the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the likelihood of these things occurring can be reduced.

Prior to any excavating and trenching work, construction supervisors and their crew should examine the condition of the soil where they will be excavating and use the proper protective system for the area. It is also important that the trench be examined each day before each shift starts as well as after a rainstorm or if a heavy piece of equipment or vehicle comes near the trench.

Furthermore, the area to be excavated should be tested for toxic gases, hazardous fumes and low oxygen. Workers may need to have respiratory or ventilation protection, especially if gasoline-powered equipment will be used at the site. While the work is going on, employers must also ensure their workers are able to safely enter and exit the excavation with the use of ladders or ramps.

A construction site accident can have a serious toll on those who become injured. However, workers' compensation benefits may assist them with their medical treatment and a portion of their wages lost during their recovery period. Injured workers may consider contacting an attorney for assistance in the preparation and filing of the claim.

Source: OSHA, "Trenching and Excavation", Jan. 24, 2016

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