Perhaps one of the most feared types of Florida construction accidents in the excavating industry are trench cave-ins and side wall collapses. When construction workers are working in a confined space underground, there are a multitude of hazards that they encounter that can lead to serious South Florida work accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

In fact, trench cave-ins accounted for 350 fatalities between the years of 2000 – 2009, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Why do cave-ins occur?
When the excavation soil is piled at the edge of the trench, it can add pressure on the trench walls. In addition, if there are backhoes, tractors and other excavation equipment being used near the trench, their vibrations can increase the chances of a cave-in and a Florida work accident.

What makes trench cave-ins so dangerous?
When workers are underground, there is a lack of oxygen and the potential to inhale toxic fumes. In addition, workers are at risk of suffocating from the crushing weight of the soil when a cave-in occurs. When the walls of the trench cave-in, the soil can bury a worker, cause him to fall, or cause debris to fall on him, leading to serious injuries or workplace fatalities in Florida.

How can cave-ins be prevented?
Construction workers and their employers should always make sure there are barricades and fences to warn others of the work going on. By doing this there will be no accidental filling of soils or someone else falling into the trench.

Construction employers should have the soil evaluated and train the trench worker on trench safety prior to the start of the job. The employer should also provide the worker with full protection of the equipment and a ladder or ramp for a safe escape. There should also be trench wall protective systems or boxes to help protect the worker while working inside the trench.

Trench’s need to be constructed appropriately for a worker to safely work inside the restricted space. There should be a sloping back of the trench wall, shoring of the wall, and shielding devices.

Excavation and trench work is necessary in the construction industry in Florida. It also is a dangerous job that can result in catastrophic workplace injuries. Most trench cave-ins can be prevented by taking safety precautions.