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OSHA finds similar trench hazards 1 month after fatal work injury

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently called on all business owners, including those in Illinois, with employees that are required to enter trenches to review the safety protocols related to excavations. This followed the death of a worker who suffered a fatal work injury when a trench collapsed in a neighboring state. OSHA came down hard on the employer because the agency found similar safety violations at another site of the same company within a month of the fatality.

OSHA says the first investigation was launched after the December death of an employee. An unprotected trench that was 12 feet deep collapsed and caused the death of a 33-year-old worker. The second investigation at a different site one month later found more employees in a trench with no cave-in protection. OSHA cited the business owner with eight serious and six willful violations, and the agency proposed penalties exceeding $714,000.

The safety agency underscored the dangers of unprotected trenches. They said this is near the top of the list of most hazardous jobs in the construction industry. The concern is that, despite the efforts to enforce safety regulations, the numbers of injuries and fatalities are growing. OSHA statistics on reported incidents nationwide show 12 trench-related injuries and 23 deaths in 2016, while 19 injuries and 15 deaths had already been reported from January to May of this year.

Any Illinois family who has to cope with the passing of a loved one who suffered a fatal work injury may find comfort in the fact that death benefits may be claimed from the workers' compensation insurance system for the state. The program provides financial assistance with the costs related to end-of-life arrangements. Furthermore, a portion of the deceased employee's average weekly wage will form part of the benefits to assist with financial obligations and daily living expenses in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Source: safety.blr.com, "OSHA comes down hard on contractor for trench violations", June 30, 2017

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