With more than 20 trenching deaths around the country reported in 2016, Pennsylvania construction workers may want to know more about this high-risk job. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, fatal trench-related incidents are preventable when safe operating procedures are in place and contractors comply with industry safety standards. However, criminal convictions in trench-collapse cases indicate that safety may sometimes be overlooked.
In some cases, quick completion of the project may be a higher priority than compliance with OSHA and other safety guidelines. The president of operations at one insurance and risk management firm suggests that cutting corners may give contractors an edge in finishing a job on time and budget. In some situations, supervisors and managers who are interested in protecting their bonuses for meeting schedule and budget goals may be inclined to pass on safety considerations. A careless safety culture and inadequately trained workers are also believed to contribute to the high number of fatalities in the construction industry.
In addition to following minimum OSHA guidelines, companies might be able to prevent some trenching accidents by giving their employees the authority to stop work when conditions are unsafe. Although the financial ramifications of shutting down a project might be sizable, an extended closure, a public relations disaster, a criminal prosecution or a loss of life could ultimately prove more detrimental.
Pennsylvania workers who are injured in a trenching accident may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. An attorney who understands the complexities of the law could assist an injured individual in filing an initial claim. In the event that the claim is denied or disputed, an attorney could provide advocacy at a subsequent hearing.