Associated With:
Super Lawyers
American Association for Justice
The National Trial Lawyers
WSAJ Eagle 2023

Trench and Excavation Collapse Injuries

According to the Department of Labor and Industries, 15 workers died in the state of Washington as a result of excavation activities from 1998 to 2008. Excavations and trenches are dangerous due to the location of equipment close to vertical walls of an excavation or when workers are working inside the excavation. The weight and vibration of heavy equipment can cause the walls of trenches to collapse if the trench is not properly shored up or secured from collapse. As a result, a number of safety regulations have been enacted to prevent construction worker injuries and deaths.

A general contractor has a duty to every employee on the jobsite, including employees of subcontractors, to comply with all applicable safety regulations. Stute v. P.B.M.C., Inc., 114 Wn.2d 454, 788 P.2d 545 (1990). The Washington Industrial Safety Act of 1973, RCW 49.17 et seq., codifies the duties of general and subcontractors towards employees on a job site. Specifically, RCW 49.17.060 provides that (1) general and subcontractors shall furnish to each employee a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause serious injury or death; and (2) general and subcontractors shall comply with WISHA regulations promulgated under the Act. In Stute, supra, the court opined:

Inasmuch as both the general and subcontractor come within the statutory definition of employer, the primary employer, the general contractor, has, as a matter of policy, the duty to comply with or ensure compliance with WISHA and its regulations. A general contractor’s supervisory authority places the general in the best position to ensure compliance with safety regulations. For this reason, the prime responsibility for safety of all workers should rest on the general contractor.

Stute, supra, at 463 (emphasis added). “WISHA regulations should be construed to protect not only an employer’s own employees, but all employees who may be harmed by the employer’s violation of the regulations.” Goucher v. J.R. Simplot, Co., 104 Wn.2d 662, 672, 709 P.2d 774 (1985).

In the context of trenches and excavations, WISHA regulations require the use of protection systems to prevent collapse of any trench or excavation deeper than 4 feet or shallower when subject to potential erosion or collapse. Contractors are required to use sloping and benching schemes to shore up the side walls, shoring systems to prevent collapse, or a shield system like a steel or aluminum shield box. The photograph below is an example of a shoring system:

Experienced Excavation and Trench Construction Injury Lawyers

Our lawyers have decades of experience in assisting injured construction workers and their families following injuries on the job. We have collected millions of dollars for injury victims and their families, gaining a reputation for tenacity, grit, and a highly ethical practice that gets results for our clients. By enforcing job safety regulations and demanding accountability for injuries, we hope to make construction sites safer for all workers.

An unexpected trench collapse can put your life in peril or end the life of a family member. Construction companies and general contractors must be held accountable for any injuries you suffer due to their negligence. At Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC, in Seattle, Washington, we will aggressively represent you in a construction accident claim and protect your rights.

Unsafe Work Practices Putting You at Risk of a Trench Cave-In

The high level of risk involved in working in a trench mandates that the general contractor take extra steps to ensure safety. There are many ways to prevent a trench collapse from happening. Far too much is at stake if the earth collapses around you and your co-workers following a backhoe accident. Suffocation or inhalation of toxic fumes can cause serious injuries or death.

Establishing Your Trench Collapse Claim

At Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC, we are detail-oriented in investigating your trench collapse claim. Your first step is to visit a physician immediately following the trench collapse to document the extent of your injuries and receive proper treatment from the outset.

Not only is your physical well-being at stake following a trench collapse — your ability to file a valid claim of negligence based on the immediate medical findings can be jeopardized if you delay.

Contact a Seattle Injury Lawyer

For more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced construction injury lawyer regarding a jobsite accident, please contact us or call 206.624.8844 for a free initial consultation.