For construction workers in New Jersey, excavations can be particularly dangerous. Workplace injuries and even fatalities linked to excavations and trench-digging have been rising throughout the nation. In response to the concerns about dangerous workplace environments, OSHA has refreshed its National Emphasis Program on trenching and excavation. The 2018 update replaces an earlier instruction written over 30 years earlier in 1985.
From 2011 through 2016, there were 130 workers who were killed on the job while engaged in these types of jobs. Of the deaths, 80 percent were related to the private construction industry. One of the most concerning things about the fatalities was the sharp uptick in recent years. A full 49 percent of the construction accident deaths took place between 2015 and 2016. Following the spate of severe workplace accidents, OSHA announced that it would impose an escalated enforcement presence. It noted that excavation work can be inherently dangerous as collapses and cave-ins are always possible. Therefore, workers engaged in these types of jobs need protection before a cave-in occurs.
OSHA announced that it plans to reach out to employers in order to ensure compliance with the standards. It also called for local offices to inspect anywhere they see an open excavation or trench, even if no violations are visible. The agency emphasized the importance of protective systems, noting that trenches 20 feet deep or greater must have protection designed by a professional engineer.
Construction workers can face a threat of severe injuries or even fatalities on the job. When employees are injured, they may be out of work for weeks or months; they may even face permanent disabilities. A workers' compensation lawyer can help injured workers to protect their rights and seek the compensation they deserve after a workplace accident.