As a construction worker, you probably regularly work in and around trenches. After all, trenches are common on construction sites, as they allow crews to build foundations, install plumbing fixtures and pipes, run electrical wires and perform other essential tasks.
Trenches also can be quite dangerous when they collapse. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 22 workers died in trench collapses during just the first half of 2022. While trench collapses can happen at any time during the year, they occur most frequently in winter and spring.
What causes trenches to fail?
Construction crews must be careful and diligent when digging trenches, as design and execution flaws can increase a trench’s probability of falling in on itself. This is especially true when a trench does not slope properly.
The following also might cause a trench to fail:
- Vibrations from heavy equipment or nearby roadways
- Unstable or loose soil
- Nearby excavation
- Soil placement
As you can see, many of these collapse-related risks are manageable, but too many others depend on environmental conditions. As a result, construction managers must regularly inspect trenches to ensure they are safe for workers to enter.
Why do trenches collapse in winter and spring?
The frequency of trench collapses in winter and spring mostly stems from weather conditions.
Just as freezing and thawing can cause soil to become unstable, heavy precipitation can change the way it behaves. Simply put, it might be unreasonably risky for crews to work in trenches when during erratic spring and winter weather.
Ultimately, regardless of when a trench collapses, workers might have grounds to seek substantial financial compensation for the injuries they suffer.