All occupations hold some degree of risk. Unfortunately, some are significantly more risky than others. For example, workers in California and across the country who are required to work in or near trenches could face significant harm in trench collapses.
Unfortunately, several workers have lost their lives in such events since the start of the new year. In fact, reports from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicate that seven people were killed in January and February. In comparison, three were killed during the same time period in 2017, and two 2018 and 2019.
The incidents typically involve a collapse that traps workers. In one of the incidents, a 24-year-old man was reportedly killed while trying to rescue another worker. In another, two workers were buried in 5 to 7 feet of mud and sand; one of the victims could not be retrieved until the next day. Fatalities are not the only consequence of trench collapses. In some cases, workers survive but face a significant recovery, and, in addition to their physical injuries, some must also cope with the death of co-workers.
There are safety measures that could potentially prevent trench collapses such as these from occurring. Often, workplace accidents spark an investigation by OSHA; if it is discovered that safety or health violations happened in the events leading up to the accident, the company could face fines, citations or some combination of both. However, this outcome will do little to help victims — and their family members — cope with the financial hardships they may face. As such, California requires that employers provide workers’ compensation insurance benefits which can help injured workers with the medical bills and lost wages. They can also provide for funeral expenses in the event of fatality.