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Workplace injury: What are the major hazards of trench work?

Construction workers in Oklahoma and across the country put their lives on the line when they work in trenches. Safety authorities hold an annual stand down in June each year, during which time they urge employers to remind workers of the hazards of excavation work. They must emphasize how compliance with safety standards can prevent trench-related workplace injury or death.

Cave-ins are the most significant hazards, and workers must never enter trenches when the walls are not secured by sloping, benching, shoring, or fitted with trench boxes. Accumulated water in an excavation must be pumped out because it can jeopardize the integrity of the walls. Atmospheric testing is crucial to monitor oxygen levels and the presence of toxic gases, which are known to collect in low-lying areas, and utility lines must be located and marked to prevent accidental strikes.

At least two feet of clearance without spoils, materials and equipment is required at the edges of any trench, and barricades and signs placed around the excavation can warn pedestrians and vehicles of the danger. No workers or equipment must be allowed above those working in excavations. Each trench worker must be issued with the necessary personal protective equipment.

Sadly, profits instead of employee safety are often the focus of construction company owners, and there will always be one more worker who has to deal with the consequences of a trench-related workplace injury. Fortunately, the Oklahoma workers' compensation insurance program is there to provide financial assistance. An experienced attorney can assist injured workers with claiming benefits to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other applicable benefits.

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