Many construction sites and other workplaces include trenches, that is, narrow tunnels in the earth that workers dig out with heavy equipment. Trenches are commonplace at many different types of Minnesota worksites. For instance, workers use them to lay or repair sewage, water, gas and other underground utility lines. A trench may also be needed when workers are building or repairing a road or doing other work that requires access underground.
According to a union that represents many people in the Twin Cities area who work with trenches, the biggest danger associated with a trench is the possibility the trench will collapse. In addition to an immediate and hard blow to the head, a collapse can lead to a crush injury or even death by suffocation.
A trench collapse happens for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the fact that the soil around the trench is dry or is of a material that just does not naturally hold together well can lead to an unexpected collapse. Wet weather and the vibrations from nearby construction equipment can also cause a collapse.
In some cases, the problem is that heavy equipment and the weight of the dirt that has been dug out. Both can put too much pressure on the walls of the trench. This is particularly true if the earth around the trench has been moved before.
Construction companies in Minnesota, of course, have an obligation to spot these risks and come up with an alternative solution, if it looks like digging a trench is going to be dangerous. There are also a number of safety features and designs employers can use to make a collapse, or, at least, devastating workplace accidents, less likely. Luckily though, for those who are victims of trench collapses, compensation may be available.