Jeremy M. Mattox
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Louisville Trench Collapse Demonstrates Danger to Worker Lives

Construction workers

A June trench collapse in Louisville which killed one worker and nearly killed another demonstrates the danger that trench and excavation work poses for workers, claiming the lives of many workers across the country each year and injuring many more, and generally in situations where the risk was preventable. OSHA estimates that an average of two workers are killed each month in trench excavation work, and provides guidance to employers and contractors on trench and excavation safety. Sadly in many cases, however, those employers ignore the safety concerns of workers in order to save costs and get jobs done more quickly, leading to worker injury and deaths.

The trench collapse in June involved two subcontractors working in an eight-foot deep trench to work on a sewer pipe behind a lounge. When the trench collapsed, concrete and dirt fell on the men. Concrete slabs fell on one worker, and authorities believe he was killed instantly. The other man was trapped in the trench for five hours, begging for rescue workers to free him more quickly, and even helping in his own rescue by using a shovel handed to him by firefighters. While he was eventually freed from the collapsed trench, this was not a foregone conclusion as rescue workers feared a second collapse, and numerous rescue workers had to be rotated out and cooled off from the heat as the five-hour rescue dragged on.

This tragic case demonstrates several aspects common to trenching and excavation accidents. The first is that trench collapses often occur without warning, and the workers have little to no time to react, for example by trying to escape the trench, before the collapse causes fatal results. Another common aspect of trench and excavation accidents is that other people, whether they are fellow construction workers or rescue workers, will try to rescue trapped workers, putting themselves at great risk of death or injury.

Employers and contractors are required by state and federal law to provide workers with a safe working environment. OSHA standards require safe access and egress to all excavations, including ladders, steps, ramps or other safe forms of exit for trench excavations 4 feet or deeper. OSHA also recommends that all heavy equipment be kept away from trench edges, all excavated soil be kept 2 feet from trench edges, and that inspection of trenches be done at the start of each shift and following any rain or water intrusion.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a trenching or excavation accident while on a construction job or other worksite, you may be entitled to compensation through a workers’ compensation action or a civil action, depending on the circumstances of the accident. An employer will likely try to persuade you to settle for as little compensation as possible, and so it is in your interest to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation and personal injury attorney who can assess your situation and guide your legal strategy for obtaining compensation.

Contact Georgetown attorney Jeremy M. Mattox for a free consultation on your possible legal claim, at 502-867-6766.

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