Trench Collapse and Excavation Cave Ins

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 300 workers died between 2000 and 2006 from injuries sustained in a trench collapse.  Before that, a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study reported that nearly 500 workers died between 1992 and 2000 from injuries sustained in an excavation cave in.  Similarly, NIOSH identified more than 600 deaths from trench cave ins that occurred between 1980 and 1989.  Over the past three decades, 3 workers a month have lost their lives in a trench collapse.

Trench collapse fatalities are high because a trench wall can give out with no notice and workers who are in the trench, or who fall into the trench, are quickly buried with tons of dirt that can cause rapid asphyxiation.  This is because one cubic yard of dry dirt can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds.  The same yard of dirt, if wet, can weigh more than 3,000 pounds. 

In response to more than 1,400 trench collapse fatalities, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) designed and implemented several safety standards in order to prevent the collapse of trenches or ditches range in depth from five to fifty feet deep and, depending upon the circumstances, can measure hundreds of feet in length.  The standards were drafted in an effort to decrease the number of construction workers that are permanently disabled or killed on the job.  Those standards include:
  • use of a shield, or trench box system to protect individuals working in a trench from excavation hazards, e.g., a soil pile slide, shear wall collapse, belly side, or lip slide;
  • shoring the sides of trenches and ditches with timber, beams, plates and other materials to ensure that the earth does not collapse on workers in the trench; and
  • sloping the sides of trenches to decrease the weight that soil removed from a trench and piled nearby can exert on the walls of a trench (known as "overburden").
With proper engineering, construction methods and safety practices, trench cave-ins are completely preventable.  This means that when they do occur, they are almost always the result of negligence.  While the State of New York prohibits a construction worker from filing a lawsuit against his or her employer, an injured construction worker, or the family of a deceased construction worker, may file a lawsuit against a negligent third-party, such as a property owner, general contractor and/or subcontractor.

At Bottar Law, PLLC, our team of Syracuse personal injury lawyers have decades of experience investigating, prosecuting and trying to verdict cases involving construction site accidents, injured construction workers and disabled laborers.  If you or a loved one have been injured while working at a job site site, you and your family may be entitled to compensation for lifelong health care, medical expenses, medical bills, loss of income, and pain and suffering. 

To discuss your case or concerns with an experienced Syracuse New York construction accident attorney, contact us at (315) 422-3466, (800) 336-LAWS, or by e-mail at