Many fatal construction accidents involve unsafe trenches

Construction workers in Arizona face as many risks as those in other states. Excavations present some of the most hazardous conditions, and many fatal construction accidents are due to collapsed trenches. Employers continue to allow employees to work in unprotected trenches -- often alone -- despite the strict safety regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Such circumstances led to the recent death of a construction worker in another state.

The worker who lost his life was not part of a construction crew, but someone who was individually contracted to do a job. A property owner needed a sewer line to be disconnected, and this involved digging a trench and disconnecting the underground line. Reportedly, a building inspector came to verify the safety of the excavation before work commenced, but he arrived to find the trench had already collapsed. Authorities say the worker worked alone -- he operated the excavator and then entered the trench without taking any steps to prevent a collapse.

Firefighters say the trench was approximately 12 feet deep, and the collapsing wall had covered the worker at the bottom under about three feet of soil. Initial attempts to shore the trench walls failed and prevented them from getting the worker out alive. In the end, around 75 people helped, but their efforts were futile, and the rescue turned into a recovery. Rescue workers spent more than three hours to get the excavation safe enough to allow access to retrieve the worker's body.

Under most circumstances, the surviving family members of workers who lost their lives in construction accidents may pursue financial relief through the workers' compensation insurance program of the state. When such an incident occurs in Arizona, an experienced workers' compensation attorney can assist family members to determine whether they are eligible for death benefits. In this case, the worker was a private contractor apparently without workers' comp insurance; nevertheless, a lawyer can help determine whether a wrongful death claim against the property owner would be appropriate under the circumstances.

Source:, "Investigation of Sterling Heights trench collapse could take months", Norb Franz, Feb. 29, 2018

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