The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes strict safety standards to prevent cave-ins on work sites. Despite the regulations, many trench-related workers’ compensation claims are filed in Minnesota each year. Along with the risks of trench wall collapses, other hazards are present whenever work has to be done in excavations and trenches with depths exceeding 5 feet.

Cave-ins can happen in the blink of an eye, burying workers under tons of soil with little chance of survival. For that reason, trench walls must be sloped, shielded or supported by approved materials. The stability of the soil must be checked at the start of each workday because overnight weather changes could cause unanticipated collapses. Added risks to be monitored include hazardous atmospheres such as insufficient oxygen levels or contamination by chemicals and toxic gases.

Injury risks are exacerbated by the presence of heavy equipment too close to the excavation. Falls and falling tools or other objects can also cause severe injuries to workers in trenches. Equally hazardous is the risk of hitting utility lines. However, all these risks can be mitigated by compliance with the prescribed OSHA safety standards.

Construction workers in Minnesota who fall victim to trench-related injuries will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits that will cover medical expenses and a percentage of lost wages. Death benefits are available for the surviving family members of workers who lose their lives in cave-ins. The claims process could be complicated, but an attorney with experience in this field of the law can navigate the administrative and legal steps on behalf of injured workers or grieving family members.