Skibiel Law

Safety violations often cause workplace injuries and fatalities

One of many hazards faced by workers in Georgia and elsewhere is working in trenches. Projects that can require trenches include installing cables, burying utilities and pouring foundations. Many workplace injuries and even deaths have resulted from company owners not complying with safety regulations that are prescribed by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

A construction company in another state is under investigation by OSHA after an unsafe trench on the grounds of a university was reported. The trench was apparently not dug in compliance with regulations. One of the violations involved the ladder that did not extend 36 inches above the edge of the trench as required, in fact, it was 12 inches below the edge. Also, the mouth of the trench did not meet the size specifications needed to help reduce a collapse.

When the walls of the trenches are not properly constructed, they can cave in unexpectedly. Workers who are in the trench -- or fall in due to the collapse -- are commonly covered with masses of dirt within moments. The weight of the dirt prevents a victim's escape, causing rapid asphyxiation. Trenches that are properly engineered with construction methods that comply with safety regulations usually have reinforced walls, making collapses preventable. Therefore, any cave-ins that do occur are mostly caused by negligence.

According to Georgia laws, workers are prohibited from filing lawsuits against their employers. Workers who have suffered workplace injuries or family members of a worker who died in such an accident may pursue compensation for medical or end-of-life expenses by filing a workers' compensation claim. Only in cases in which the workplace accident was caused by an independent third-party may a civil claim be pursued.

Source:, "Campus construction leads to state investigation", Morgan Eads, March 25, 2015

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