The California branch of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has begun an investigation into a fatal trench collapse accident in Los Angeles last week. A worker was killed at a home in Studio City, when the 8 foot x 2 foot trench that he was working in collapsed, effectively burying him under tons of soil.
The accident occurred on Tuesday afternoon, while the worker was engaged in the construction of a sewer line at a residential site. There were no witnesses to the collapse, and when emergency personnel from the Los Angeles Fire Department arrived at the scene, they found the worker buried under the soil, unconscious. He was not breathing. Fire crews used vacuum cleaners to remove the soil from the worker, but it soon became clear that this was going to be a recovery operation, and not a rescue effort.
There is not much information about the construction company or contractors that were involved on the site, and the kind of safety regulations that may have been violated. However, it’s very clear that this was an accident that was entirely preventable. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has safety regulations in place precisely to prevent trench collapse accidents like this one. For instance, the walls of the trench can be shored or benched in order to prevent a collapse. Besides, a trench must be deemed safe before a worker can be allowed into it.
It is highly likely that none of these regulations were followed here. Unfortunately, renting shoring and benching equipment costs money. Los Angeles construction accident lawyers have noticed that the number of construction companies in California that are willing to forgo worker safety in favor of cost savings, seem to have increased.