“In mere seconds, thousands of pounds of soil can trap a worker in a trench collapse and lead to serious and often fatal injuries.”
That’s what’s at stake when construction companies fail to follow the federal safety regulations on preventing trench collapses and cave-ins, according to OSHA’s Chicago North area director.
Trench collapses can be deadly. Indeed, OSHA reports that 22 construction workers died in trench collapses in just the first six months of 2022.
Because of the lethality of the hazards, OSHA has placed a national emphasis on preventing trench collapses. For example, federal trenching standards require:
- Protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet
- Soil and work materials to be kept at least 2 feet from the edge of the trench
- The trench to be kept free of standing water and atmospheric hazards
- A safe means of ingress and egress for workers
- Inspection of the trench by a knowledgeable person
A trench collapse could easily have happened at an A. Lamp Concrete Contractors project in Broadview in June. An OSHA inspector found company employees working in a 7-foot-deep trench near a municipal sewer and water line. There was no safe means of entering or exiting the trench and inadequate cave-in protection.
“Our inspector found that a company foreman was supervising the work of two employees in the unprotected trench, which demonstrates the company’s lack of concern for federal regulations, industry-recognized best practices and its legal responsibility to protect workers on the job,” said the Chicago North area director.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time the Schaumburg-based excavating contractor had exposed workers to a cave-in hazard. OSHA had already cited A. Lamp Concrete in 2018 and 2021 for the issue.
This time, OSHA cited the company with three repeat, one serious and one other-than-serious violation and proposed fining it $118,962. The company has the right to contest the fine.
Construction site injuries are generally covered by workers’ comp
Employees of all sorts of contractors are generally covered by workers’ comp in Illinois. If you have been injured while working on a construction site, you do not have to prove your employer was guilty of negligence or violating federal workplace safety standards. In most cases, you only have to show that you have coverage and your injury was job-related.
Illinois’ workers’ compensation system also offers some financial relief to families of people who are killed on the job. Benefits include reimbursement for final medical bills, up to $8,000 for funeral and burial expenses, and partial replacement of the deceased employee’s wages.