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Trenching and excavation operations are common features in a wide variety of construction projects in New York City. Unfortunately, open pits and trenches can prove deadly or cause serious injury if the proper precautions are not taken. State and federal laws and regulations require trenching and excavation operations to be undertaken in a safe manner. When violations of these rules cause serious personal injury or wrongful death, New York City excavation accident lawyer Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. holds property owners and contractors liable for their negligence and fights to get injured construction workers the compensation they deserve.
Work involving trenches and excavations are regulated by the federal Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) as well as the New York Industrial Code. An excavation is basically any man-made cut or depression in an earth surface, formed by the removal of earth.
A trench is considered by OSHA to be any excavation made below the surface of the ground that is deeper than it is wide, up to a maximum width of 15 feet. According to an OSHA FactSheet on trenching and excavation safety, two workers die every month in a trench collapse.
Cave-ins pose the greatest risk among trenching and excavation accidents and are the most likely to cause worker fatalities, but there are other hazards as well, including falls, falling loads and hazardous atmospheres containing flammable gases or contaminants, or simply an insufficient supply of oxygen or inadequate ventilation.
OSHA regulations for excavations are covered in Part 1926, Subpart P. These rules require the design and construction of adequate ramps for access and egress, proper emergency rescue equipment where hazardous atmospheric conditions exist, and adequate protective systems including shoring for trenches.
Excavation operations are governed at the state level by the New York Industrial Code, found at Subpart 23-4 of New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR). Many of these provisions deal with methods for preventing cave-ins, whether by sloping, benching, sheeting, shoring or bracing. Other provisions require adequate ladders, stairways and ramps in certain excavations. A violation of a specific provision found in the NYCRR can be grounds for the injured employee to recover compensation under New York Labor Law 241(6).
In a presentation made by the New York City Department of Buildings in support of its Excavation and Trench Safety Guidelines flyer, it is noted that while trenches are only meant to be in place for a short period of time, perhaps only minutes or a few hours, all trench walls will eventually collapse, and it is impermissibly dangerous to assume an unstabilized trench is safe for an employee to enter even for a brief period.
If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a trench wall collapse or other excavation accident, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. to speak to an experienced New York excavation accident lawyer who will help you get the compensation you need and deserve.