Many people don't realize it, but trenching and excavation is a key component of almost every type of construction. This is true whether pouring concrete foundations using a trench or excavating earth to allow maintenance on buried pipes. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, at least two workers perish each month in trench collapses.
Generally, a trench is defined as any man-made cut or cavity in the Earth's surface, not wider than 15 feet at its deepest point. However, trenches can also be deeper than that depending on their requirements. Trenches that are 20 feet in depth or greater require a registered professional engineer to design protective shoring intended to protect workers.
The recent collapse of a relatively shallow trench in Maryville, Illinois, highlights how even smaller trenches can be hazardous to workers. In that case, a man working on a water line required the assistance of firefighters to help extricate him after a trench collapsed around him and trapped him in dirt up to his chest. The trench in that accident was only seven feet deep. Fortunately, the worker survived with only non-life-threatening injuries.
Illinois workers injured in trench and excavation accidents need to know about their workers' compensation rights. Illinois requires employers to maintain industrial insurance that is designed to provide benefits for workers injured on their jobs. Usually, injured workers will receive partial wage replacement payments based on a percentage of their weekly pay. Injured workers can also receive medical benefits that are geared towards restoring them to their previous health statuses.
However, injured workers are not always able to return to work in their previous capacities. A missing limb, a loss of vision or even brain trauma can force some workers out of their old jobs. Some of those workers will have to retrain into other jobs or other professions altogether. An Illinois workers' compensation attorney can assist those injured workers seek vocational rehabilitation in those types of cases. If successful, the workers' compensation insurance will pay for an injured worker to receive that vocational training at no cost to them.
Source: Occupational Health and Safety, "Trenching and Excavation Safety," accessed July 09, 2015