Workers in trenching and excavation should observe safety precautions to avoid injury on the job. There are a number of risks associated with this hazardous line of work, including trench collapses, falling loads, cave-ins, hazardous atmospheres, falls and injuries with mobile equipment. There must be a protective system in place for trenches that are more than 5 feet deep, and that system has to be designed by or based on data by a professional engineer if the trench is more than 20 feet deep. The design of protective systems varies according to many factors, including soil classification, water content in soil, other operations nearby and more.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that trenches be inspected daily by someone who can identify hazards and who is authorized to make the necessary changes. OSHA also requires entries or exits within 25 feet of all trench excavation workers.

A number of other rules should be observed. Trenches should be inspected after a rainstorm. They need to be tested for hazardous gases and fumes and for low oxygen. Heavy equipment and surcharge loads must be kept away from trench edges. People should not work under raised loads and should know where any underground utilities are.

Despite these precautions, a worker may still be injured in this type of work. In some cases, a worker might be injured because these precautions are not observed. In either case, the worker may be eligible for workers’ compensation to cover medical expenses and other costs. Workers may not know all their rights associated with an on-the-job injury, and employers may not know either or may not inform them. A worker might want to consult an attorney about filing a workers’ compensation claim and any other steps that could be taken. An attorney also may be able to assist with an appeal if necessary.