Improving safety during trenching and excavation work

Digging trenches and excavating work sites are two of the most hazardous tasks for construction workers in Pennsylvania and in other parts of the country. Proper planning and strict adherence to safety protocols are crucial if accidents are to be prevented. Cave-ins are usually one of the chief concerns of construction crews performing trenching or excavation work, but flooding, toxic fume inhalation and oxygen depletion are also considerations when work is performed in close confinement.

Underground conditions can never be fully understood until trenching work has begun, and even the most meticulously planned excavation work can be unstable. Surveys conducted before digging commences can test soil and identify the positions of underground lines and pipes, and health and safety experts may suggest additional precautions be taken to prevent water from accumulating or toxic fumes from building up. Planners should also ensure that workers are able to escape in an emergency situation.

Once trenching work is underway, regular inspections should be made to ensure that containment systems put into place are adequate and that emergency exits are clear. The surfaces of slopes and ladders should not be slippery, and excavated soil should be placed in small piles several feet away from the work area. Trench boxes or other retaining devices can be used to extend trenches vertically and prevent cave-ins or dangerous spills.

Workers who perform excavation work or other hazardous duties expect all reasonable steps to be taken to ensure their safety, but no amount of preparation or oversight can eliminate all on-the-job accidents. Workers injured at work will generally file a claim under the state's workers' compensation program, but attorneys with experience in this area may recommend that they pursue a lawsuit instead if the actions of their employers could amount to negligence.

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