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Fatal trench accidents increased in 2016

New Jersey construction workers should be aware that deadly trench accidents around the country more than doubled in 2016, according to data from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This is especially troubling because construction contractors can prevent trench collapses and other trench-related accidents by following established safety procedures.

OSHA reports that 23 workers were killed in trench accidents last year, including two workers who lost their lives in a Boston trench collapse. OSHA fined the contractor nearly $1.5 million for 18 safety violations, which prompted the city government to pass a law requiring contractors to submit their safety histories before being approved for city building permits. The state also filed criminal charges against the contractor.

According to industry experts, trench accidents most often occur because workers aren't properly trained. Also, there is often an incentive to rush jobs by cutting corners and there is sometimes a culture of carelessness at work sites. Safety advocates say that contractors should use OSHA safety guidelines as the starting point for developing their own policies. Companies should also make sure all jobs are properly supervised to ensure safety standards are being maintained.

Trench collapses often cause catastrophic injuries. Most injured workers have the right to file for workers' compensation benefits benefits through their employer's insurance coverage These benefits are designed to provide medical expense reimbursement and partial wage replacement while an individual is unable to work. Likewise, families who lose a loved one to a fatal trench accident might be eligible to file for workers' compensation death benefits. Many victims choose to consult with a lawyer while preparing their claims to ensure all required documentation is included.

Source: Construction Dive, "Life in the trenches: Why supervision and safety programs matter", Kim Slowey, July 27, 2017

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