Construction sites pose a wide range of injury risks to construction workers in New York, from fall dangers to risks of getting struck by heavy equipment or exposed to harmful substances or electrical hazards. Employers and general contractors have a duty to ensure that construction sites in New York are reasonably safe for workers, that appropriate safety protocols have been adhered to, and that workers have adequate safety equipment. In general, injuries can be prevented on construction sites with proper care and attention to safety. This is especially true of serious and deadly trenching accident injuries. What are trenching accidents, and what can you do if you are injured in a trenching accident or lose a loved one in one of these accidents? Our New York construction accident lawyers have more information for you.
Learning More About Trenching and Excavation in Construction
Trenching and excavation in construction involve trenches and excavation sites. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), excavation is “any opening or depression in the earth’s surface,” which “can be as narrow as a backhoe bucket or as wide as an open pit mine.” In most excavation work on construction sites, the excavation is man-made. A trench, according to the NIH, is a specific type of “excavation in which material removal forms a narrow opening in the ground.” It is “generally deeper than it is wide,” and is typically 15 feet wide or less.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it is rare for a construction worker to survive a trench collapse, and 80 percent of all trench cave-ins occur in the construction industry. Between 2003 and 2017, the CDC identified 373 trenching deaths. Why are these accidents so deadly? As the CDC clarifies, although a “small amount of dirt may not seem dangerous,” even “one square yard can weigh more than 3,000 pounds — the weight of a compact car.” As such, even seemingly minor trench collapses can cause fatal crush injuries and suffocation injuries. The key thing to know is that trenching and excavation accidents, and trench cave-ins specifically, are entirely avoidable with proper training and the use of trenching safety materials.
You May Be Able to File a Lawsuit Under New York Labor Law
It is critical for injured construction workers, or surviving family members of construction workers killed in trench cave-ins, to know that it may be possible to file a negligence lawsuit against a construction employer or general contractor. New York Labor Law specifically addresses negligence in trenching and excavation work and liability for injuries or deaths.
Under Section 241 of New York Labor Law, contractors and owners and their agents can be liable for negligence in making trenching and excavation work safe. The statute expressly says:
“All areas in which construction, excavation, or demolition work is being performed shall be so constructed, shored, equipped, guarded, arranged, operated, and conducted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to the persons employed therein or lawfully frequenting such places.”
Contact a New York Construction Accident Attorney
If you need help filing a negligence claim under New York Labor Law following a trench cave-in or another type of construction accident, you should get in touch with one of our experienced New York construction accident attorneys for assistance. Contact Powers & Santola, LLP today to get started on your case.