Work can be a dangerous place for construction workers in Pennsylvania and across the country. Because employees in construction handle heavy equipment and deal with incomplete structures, workplace accidents can be devastating. One area of construction is particularly dangerous for employees: trenching and excavation projects. The nature of these projects makes them vulnerable to cave-in and collapse, and too many employers don’t abide by safety regulations. The number of fatalities on the job related to trenching projects has drawn concern at a federal level.

From 2011 through 2016, 130 workers were killed while engaged in trenching or excavation projects. Even more concerning, 49 percent of those deaths took place between 2015 and 2016 alone. In response, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that inspections, education and enforcement related to these projects were national priorities. OSHA has already taken action to enforce workplace safety rules. One company was fined $400,000 for safety violations involved in trench cave-ins while another firm was fined $250,000 for failing to use cave-in protective systems while workers were in the trenches.

As part of the prioritization of these projects, OSHA is establishing a national registry of trenching and excavation inspections. The agency launched a three-month educational period on Oct. 1 accompanied by the release of employer resources. In addition, if inspectors come across this type of project while at a work site, they should immediately begin an inspection without having to notice a violation or receive a complaint first.

When construction workers are hurt on the job, they can face mounting medical bills even as their injuries prevent them from returning to work. Some workers may face permanent disabilities as a result of workplace accidents. A workers’ compensation lawyer may be able to help injured workers protect their rights and seek the benefits to which they are entitled.