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Avoiding a deadly trench collapse

On Behalf of | Aug 26, 2021 | Construction Accidents |

As construction season comes into the year’s home stretch throughout Nebraska, many companies will attempt to quickly ramp up new projects or speed through existing ones before the weather inevitably turns bad. Through all this, ensuring the continued safety of all workers must remain the highest priority.

Many projects, no matter the scope, will require some level of excavation. In general, an excavation occurs when workers remove a significant amount of material from an area and individuals must complete work must in the resulting indentation. When the excavation reaches certain measurements, officials call it trench. Any trench that is five feet or deeper must have a protective system in place. These systems can include:

  • Slope: A trench slope is one wall that workers cut back at an angle inclined away from the excavation taking some pressure off the trench and allowing workers a fast escape.
  • Shore: Construction workers can shore up the sides of a trench by installing supports designed to prevent a soil cave-in.
  • Shield: In the most dangerous conditions – low soil quality, depth of cut, unpredictable weather – the workers must shield the trench to ensure safety. A “trench box” can fully support the shielded trench against soil movement and cave-ins.

Additionally, workers can dig a trench with one side laid out in horizontal levels – much like steps. Officials refer to this as benching and the process can provide workers a fast method of escape if the walls of the trench become unstable and a collapse becomes imminent.

Unless the trench is completely dug through stable rock, soil can shift and a cave-in can occur lightning-fast. When the walls of a trench collapse, tons of soil can crush workers. On a construction site, it is crucial that workers take proper steps to ensure the safety of those who work in or around a deep excavation.