Excavating, particularly trench digging, presents significant risks to workers in Oklahoma. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has charted a significant rise in trench collapse fatalities. In 2011, trench collapses killed two workers every month, and 2016 saw fatalities double compared to the previous five years. The agency intends to make excavation safety a priority in 2018 and encourages excavating companies to participate in the safety stand down planned for this summer by the National Utility Contractors Association.
During a stand down, employers, supervisors and workers set aside time to address workplace hazards and safety procedures. Trench safety strategies include digging slopes or graduated benches to limit the possibility of soil falling on workers. Shoring and protective trench boxes also shield workers. In many excavation situations, safety decisions must be made by professional engineers or other people who are knowledgeable about mitigating risks.
Safety advocates within the excavation sector blame sloppiness on the spike in accidents. Problems like poor supervision, lack of safety knowledge and overt laziness reportedly leave hazards unaddressed at work sites. Work deadlines and tight budgets also divert attention from safety. Trench collapses pose such a threat because a single cubic yard of soil could weigh thousands of pounds and crush a person. Falling materials and getting hit by equipment also take a toll on exposed workers.
Lax workplace safety increases the chances of a person getting hurt on the job. Workers’ compensation insurance sponsored by the employer should pay for an injured worker’s medical care, but a person might want legal advice before filing a claim. A person may discuss concerns about investigations and citations for safety violations with an attorney. A legal professional might provide advice about how to inform regulators about safety problems. Legal representation when filing an insurance claim may also help a person obtain an adequate settlement.