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There is no doubt that working on a construction site brings with it many risks. The site can change nearly every day, and workers are often exposed to electrical lines, main gas lines, falling objects and dangerous heights regularly.

Another standard aspect of construction sites require construction workers to work in narrow, deep trenches. According to a new study, trenches are quickly becoming one of the most dangerous hazards that construction workers face.

Trenches are already incredibly dangerous

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that trenching and excavation are some of the most hazardous construction projects. They often involve the following risks:

  • Collapses or cave-ins, when the weather or soil is wet, or heavy machinery nears the edges of the trench, the trench becomes unstable
  • Falls into the trench when there are no proper barriers installed
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals or low oxygen levels when working in the trench
  • Electrocution or gas leaks if workers hit a utility line in the trench

Construction workers are often eligible to collect workers’ compensation for these injuries, regardless of how dangerous their work is (Maryland Code, Labor & Employment §9-507). However, trenches often place construction workers at a higher risk of suffering a workplace fatality than an injury.

But, workplace accidents involving trenches are increasing

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Magazine, the number of fatalities caused by trench accidents is on the rise. Based on the most recent data, the year 2016 had the same number of deaths from trench accidents as 2014 and 2015 combined. This could be the result of many factors:

  • There are often more construction projects when the economy is up
  • Some contractors or employers might not practice OSHA’s safety standards
  • Awareness of these accidents and the risks trenches pose is often low

Is it possible to reduce the risk of a trench accident?

It is critical for employers to plan and prepare before trenching. However, construction workers can prepare themselves as well, so they can stay safe in the trenches. Construction workers can ask their employers about the details of the site, including soil and groundwater levels, and consider how future weather could affect the stability of the trench.

Essentially, the more workers understand the risks they face, the better they can avoid them and remain safe on the job.

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