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Construction excavation/trenching risks: beyond cave-ins

Certain types of construction work can raise added worker safety concerns. One such type of work is work involving excavation and trenching. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the death rates connected to excavation work are considerably larger than the rates connected to general construction work.

When it comes to the dangers of trenching and excavation operations, a lot of focus goes to cave-ins. This is understandable, given the considerable harm these types of accidents cause.

However, it is important to not forget that cave-ins are not the only harmful accidents that can happen in relation to trenching and excavation. Examples of other types of accidents that sometimes occur during trenching and excavation operations include:

  • Explosions.
  • Fires.
  • Electrical shocks.
  • Toxic substance exposures.
  • Water submersion accidents.
  • Accidents caused by low-oxygen.
  • Falls.

There is a great deal of variation among excavation/trenching sites. What particular risks arise in relation to a trenching/excavation site in part depends on the specifics of the site. For example, a site containing restricted spaces or being in areas where underground electrical lines are present can present special risks. The specific conditions of a site can also impact what sorts of safety equipment and safety practices would be best suited for work at the site.

Just as the characteristics of trenching/excavation sites can vary widely, so too can the circumstances of trenching/excavation accidents, even accidents of the same general category. Among the things the details of a construction accident could have impacts on are what legal remedies are available in relation to the accident. For example, they could impact whether a worker hurt in the accident is limited to workers’ comp as a remedy, or could pursue additional options.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Construction eTool – Trenching and Excavation,” Accessed May 5, 2016


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