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Are you at risk of being trapped in a trench collapse?

New York City is a hive of construction activity year round, and some of those jobs are considered to be very high-risk. One particularly dangerous job on construction sites is excavation work.

Each year over the past decade, roughly 35 construction laborers were killed in cave-ins of trenches they were either digging or working inside of, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, one cubic yard of excavated soil may weigh over 3,000 pounds, which makes these sudden collapses especially deadly for those working in and around them.

Trenches are subject to collapse with no warning to the workers. Soil with a high water content is more unstable than drier dirt, and there are additional factors which can increase the risk of a trench collapsing. They include vibrations from passing traffic, heavy machinery on the job site and power tools, as well as being near other excavation sites that have already been back-filled.

So how can a worker protect his- or herself when working around excavations?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, all trenches that are at least 5 feet deep require protective systems in place unless the trench is hewn completely from stable rock.

NIOSH provides these tips for workers and the companies that employ them to maintain safe excavation practices:

-- All job sites need a specially trained and designated competent employee to make sure that safety measures are taken.

-- This person must perform daily inspections of the trench and surrounding excavation site. Inspections should include the site's protective systems and should take place before work commences, during the work day and after it rains.

-- Keep ladders and exit gear within 25 feet of all workers in trenches.

If you were hurt in a trench collapse at an excavation site, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and losses.

Source: Safety Health, "Be aware of trench collapse dangers," accessed Oct. 28, 2016

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