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La Jolla trench cave-in highlights safety concerns

Last Friday, a construction site in La Jolla became the scene of a harrowing rescue as construction workers raced to help free a fellow worker who was trapped in a trench. The man became trapped after the trench in which he was laying pipeline collapsed. He was rushed by first responders to a nearby hospital where his condition remains unknown.

This local trench cave-in accident is just one of several that occur each year in the U.S. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, from 2000 to 2009, an average of 35 construction workers died annually in trench accidents and cave-ins and many more likely suffered painful and debilitating injuries.

There's no doubt that trenching and excavating work is dangerous and puts workers at an increased risk of suffering injuries. NIOSH contends, however, that the hazards associated with this type of work are well documented, as are the steps that employers should take to prevent worksite accidents and protect employees.

For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes that "lack of protective system was the leading cause of trench-related fatalities." Wall supports, ground sloping and use of a trench shield box are just some of the safety methods that, if properly employed, can help prevent trench cave-ins and worker injuries and deaths.

In addition to the proper preparation of a worksite and the use of safety equipment, employers must take steps to educate and train workers about safety hazards and ways to minimize those hazards. Additionally, it's important to understand and identify risk factors, like the type of soil and size of trench, that may increase the likelihood of a trench collapse and to take steps to mitigate those risks.

Source: CBS8, "Worker hurt when trench collapses in La Jolla," March 22, 2015

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