Indications that a trench accident may occur due to a trench collapse include tension cracks, changes in the slope of a wall, bulge emanating from a wall, softening of a wall, or other clearly visible changes to the trench. Contractors should inspect the soil and check for any changes in its condition. Vibration from construction machinery during work can also lead to a trench accident.
In the event of a trench accident, the contractors on the site must have a safety plan in place for a means of escape and exit from the trench collapse. An escape route may include a ladder, ramps, or stairs.
Working under the ground repeatedly may cause the ground to shift leading to a trench collapse. Any construction worker inside a trench during a collapse will become buried by soil, dirt, rubble, rocks, and other debris. Heavy construction equipment and machinery may fall down or roll over onto its side as a result of a trench collapse. The shifting of the ground and construction equipment will be an immediate danger to workers in the area.
An injured construction worker is entitled to worker’s compensation but may also file a third-party action against the general contractor, property owner, and other responsible parties. Both the New York State Labor Law statutes as well as general negligence laws may be applicable in a trenching accident.