Construction workers across California have inherently dangerous jobs, and thousands of them suffer on-the-job injuries every year. While working from heights, working with power tools and working on scaffolding all pose injury risks for construction workers, so, too, does working in trenches. In fact, working in trenches or on excavation efforts is one of the most dangerous tasks today’s construction workers perform.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration, trench collapses, many of which involve cave-ins, cause hundreds of construction-worker injuries and dozens of deaths every year. While trenches, or man-made cavities created to allow construction professionals to perform work, are undeniably dangerous, there are numerous steps you and your employers can take to mitigate your risk of suffering a serious injury from a trench collapse.

Some of the things you and your team can do to reduce your risk of a trench collapse involve utilizing a proper protective system when digging and designing them. This involves devoting careful consideration to factors such as soil classification, soil water content, climate changes and related factors. OSHA also dictates that companies using trenches inspect them at least daily, and possibly more frequently, if environmental or other conditional changes occur that could impact the stability of the trench.

You and your employer can also help mitigate the risk of a trench collapse by making efforts to keep heavy equipment away from the trench and by regularly conducting tests to ensure no hazardous gases or fumes are present inside. It is also important that your team recognize where underground utilities exist and avoid them when working in trenches.

This information about the hazards associated with working in trenches is informative in nature, but it is not a substitute for legal advice.