A construction worker became entrapped in a trench while on the job this week at the Veterans Administration Medical Center campus in Montgomery, Ala.
According to Montgomery Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Martha Earnhardt, the construction laborer was working in the trench when he became trapped by shifting dirt. The cave-in situation, however, had already subsided by the time Montgomery Fire/Rescue personnel arrived on the scene, thanks to co-workers who were able to free the man using their own efforts.
“The worker was not believed to be injured, but was transported as a precautionary measure,” Earnhardt stated.
Although this construction worker managed to escape this on-the-job cave-in without injury, many other workers are not as fortunate. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in a 2012 report indicated there were 4,628 work-related fatalities total in the United States that year. A more recent preliminary report for 2013 shows the number of workers who died on the job declined slightly to 4,405. Construction industry fatalities accounted for 796 of those worker deaths.
Federal agencies like the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) make it their mission to inform and protect the millions of our nation’s workers. Despite being a small agency with only approximately 2,200 inspectors across the U.S., OSHA works to ensure that every worker has the privilege of a safe, hazard-free work environment.
OSHA data indicates the fatality rate for excavation work is 112 percent higher than for general construction work. Workers in trenches face dangers from cave-ins, as well as asphyxiation due to lack of oxygen in a confined space, inhalation of toxic fumes, and even drowning. Workers also may experience electrocution or explosions if they come into contact with underground utilities. OSHA provides strict guidelines for construction sites operating with trenches.
According to the OSHA website, “before OSHA was created 43 years ago, an estimated 14,000 workers were killed on the job every year. Today, workplaces are much safer and healthier, going from 38 fatal injuries a day to 12. But there is still much work to be done.”
For more information on OSHA or if you wish to file a complaint about hazardous conditions in your workplace, visit OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov/.