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Are trenches safe for Nyack workers?

All the construction in and around Nyack necessitates that trenches must be excavated on work sites by laborers who are often poorly trained and without the proper equipment to safely handle the task.

Trenches are vital when workers are installing and repairing utility and sanitation lines, storm drains and when completing highway renovations. But trench collapses quickly become deadly misadventures on construction sites when safety measures aren't followed to the letter.

What is a trench, and why are they so dangerous?

Trenches are temporary holes dug where the bottom is longer than the floor is wide, as well as being deeper than the floor's width. Properly constructed trenches have five distinct parts:

  • Lip - Top 24 inches of wall
  • Toe - Bottom 24 inches of wall
  • Belly - Wall center
  • Wall - Toe, lip and belly
  • Floor - Trench base

All five portions are integrally involved with maintaining the stability of the trench, and when one part destabilizes, it jeopardizes the integrity of the entire excavation for the workers involved in the project. Considering that it only takes a few seconds to bury a laborer under thousands of pounds of heavy soil, these construction accidents have high fatality rates.

Excavated piles of dirt that fall just 10 feet drop at the rate of 17 miles per hour onto those workers below in the trench, who have no escape route. At the weight of a hundred pounds for each cubic foot of soil, a single cubic yard falling on top of workers buries them under about 3,000 pounds of excavated soil.

Rescuers face risks, too.

Time is of the essence when attempting a rescue of entrapped workers in a trench collapse, as the crushing weight of the soil pressing down causes them to suffocate within minutes because their chests compress and can no longer expand to take another breath.

Frantically digging them out is their only chance at survival, but first responders - and even co-workers - must first assess the situation and take appropriate precautions such as shoring up the area before attempting to dig out the buried workers in order to avoid becoming secondary victims of the collapse.

What are the most common causes of trench collapses?

Failing to properly shore up a trench is the most common cause of worksite cave-ins. But all excavations are at risk from the everyday vibrations from traffic and heavy equipment at and around the construction site that can jar the soil and trigger a deadly collapse.

Wet soil and the presence of pooled water at the base of the trench are indicators of an enhanced risk of a trench collapse at the construction site.

How to stay safe when working in trenches.

Workers must always follow safety protocols to avoid putting themselves in harm's way while on the job. Insist on shoring up excavation sites before descending into the trench. If you are injured in a trench collapse, you may become permanently disabled and be forced to seek compensation through the New York courts.

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