A trench collapse can be devastating and potentially fatal for workers who are accessing the trench. It’s typically not something that happens slowly, but rather the trench can shift and collapse in a split second. By the time the workers know it’s happening, it’s already far too late to get out of the way, and thousands of pounds of soil, rock and sand can cover them.
The key to avoiding it, then, is not to react quickly when it happens, but to identify the warning signs in advance and avoid a dangerous situation. Here are a few signs to look for:
- Cracking along the trench walls
- Sections of the walls that seem to be sagging
- Pieces of the wall that are bulging outward
- Bubbling and cracking in the trench floor
All of these show that there is excess pressure on the walls and they may give way at any movement.
Issues that lead to a collapse
You may also want to watch out for common issues that lead to a collapse. Even if you don’t see direct warning signs in the soil, you can identify when dangerous events are taking place. Examples include:
- Working in the rain
- Stacking materials next to the trench
- Failing to use any trench wall supports
- Driving heavy machinery too close to the edge
Many of these things may be out of your control. You can do everything properly and still be caught in a collapse when a machine operator strays too close while trying to help dig, for instance. If you are injured, be sure you know exactly what legal options you have.