Two construction workers were buried in a 10 foot trench that collapsed on them while they were working in the Bronx. The workers were trapped at Fish Avenue and Hicks Street, in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx. They were rescued by members of the Fire Department during the early evening hours.
The timely rescue was simple but effective. Emergency personnel lowered something called a “Stokes Basket,” described in media reports as a type of stretcher, into the trench, allowing the construction workers to free themselves from the dirt and debris and be lifted out of the trench. It is not known how long the workers were trapped.
The two trapped construction workers were injured but their injuries were not believed to be life threatening. They were rushed to Jacobi Hospital for medical care. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the injured construction workers and those who love them.
Construction accident attorneys are familiar with trenches and the perils associated with trench work. But, lay persons often wonder what a trench is, the risks involved in trench work and why trenches are essential during construction work.
First, trench work is a leading cause of serious injury and death at construction sites. A trench is a man-made cavity or hole in the ground that is created by excavation work. According to OSHA, a trench is deeper than it is wide and is no wider than 15 feet. Trenches are narrow by nature and therefore pose a risk of a cave in.
A cave-in or collapse can occur when a trench is dug in an unsafe area. Why? The soil is unstable where the trench has been dug is unstable and not structurally sound. Construction equipment and other vehicles can also disturb the integrity of the soil and impact the safety of a trench. Water is frequently a foe of trenches. Too much water in the soil around a trench can disturb the strength and quality of a trench. Water can also enter the trench and leave the trench vulnerable. Dewatering techniques are important to preserve the stability of a trench. This is accomplished by using high performance pumps to drain the trench.
Trenches at construction sites are required to be protected so that workers are safe. Trench protection includes shoring, which is designed to prevent a cave in by holding up the walls of the trench. Trench shields are also used to protect workers from the effects of a trench cave-in or collapse.
Shoring photo here:
Shields, frequently referred to by trade workers as a “trench box,” are generally made of steel or aluminum. They safeguard the workers as they work in the trench, guarding them or shielding them from a cave-in.
Workers are also supposed to be provided a means of escaping the trench. A ladder is customarily provided so that a worker has an opportunity to escape a dangerous trench. Lastly, having seasoned, experienced workers at the site often prevents accidents before they happen. There is no substitute for life experience.
Trench work is dangerous and consequently workers need to be afforded every opportunity to do their job safely. We hope that folks in this country learn more about these dangers and continue to make worker safety a priority.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a trench accident, you should consider consulting an experienced construction accident attorney. Block O’Toole & Murphy is a law firm that prides itself on fighting for construction workers and their families. The firm has recovered nearly 1 billion dollars in verdicts and settlements for their injured clients. You may contact them anytime by calling 212-736-5300.