Three construction workers were injured on Wednesday, March 25 in a trench collapse, an ordinary construction job gone wrong.
The three men were working at 1925 East 14th Street, in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, removing tree stumps and roots in the backyard of the two-story home. In order to remove the tree debris, they dug a trench that was four to five feet deep. According to a statement from the Department of Buildings, as they were working, the wall of the adjacent garage at 1921 East 14th Street collapsed, injuring the three men and pinning one beneath a pile of dirt and cinder blocks.
Fire officials and emergency crews rushed to the scene, and were able to quickly dig out the trapped worker. The three workers were immediately transferred to Maimonides Medical Center and New York Community Hospital. None are believed to be in life-threatening condition, according to media sources.
Inspectors from the Department of Buildings arrived on the scene soon after the accident. It is unclear whether the work site had the necessary permits to allow construction. The construction company was issued a stop-work order, and the investigation of the scene is ongoing with any punitive or enforcement actions pending. The New York Post reported that according to city building records, 1925 East 14th Street has no open building violations. It is not clear what, if any, planning was involved in understanding the consequences to the adjacent areas after the trench was dug. There is an absolute responsibility for those at a construction site responsible for safety to contemplate these hazards before the work has begun. Proper planning can save lives and avoid serious injuries in the workplace.
Trenching and excavation accidents are more common than you might think. In 2018, OSHA released a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Trenching and Excavation, with the goal of identifying and reducing “hazards which are causing or likely to cause serious injuries and fatalities during trenching and excavation operations.” The NEP reports that there were 130 fatalities in trenching and excavation operations between 2011 and 2016, and the private construction industry accounted for 80 percent of those fatalities.
OSHA provides various safety tips for working in trenches. One of the most important is simply, do not enter an unprotected trench. Trenches five feet deep or greater must have a protective system in place, which must be approved by a registered professional engineer. Additionally, OSHA requires that all trenches must be inspected daily by a competent person before any workers enter.
These workers deserved access to a safe work site, including a safe opportunity to complete their work, and they did not have that. It is fortunate that the workers who were injured in Wednesday’s accident did not lose their lives, but it is clear from the glaring statistics that they were easily at risk of doing so. Better protections and safety precautions need to be enacted so that construction workers don’t have to fear every time they are performing even a simple job.
The construction accident lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to help if you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident. We have an extensive track record of obtaining results for those injured in construction accidents in New York, including:
- $7,300,000 settlement for a worker who had to have his arm amputated after the column supporting the steel beam he was working on collapsed, crushing his right side
- $5,885,000 jury verdict for an undocumented worker who was injured when the rolling scaffold he was standing on tipped over
- $4,250,000 settlement for a union worker who was knocked to the bottom of a 12-foot excavated trench
- $3,250,000 settlement for a 37-year-old union worker who sustained multiple injuries when the floor he was standing on collapsed