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Trench disaster may leave you at a loss

When your spouse went off to work each day, you may have felt the dread that comes when a loved one works a hazardous construction job. On the other hand, maybe, for your own peace of mind, you dismissed the danger and trusted in your spouse's skill and the safety measures taken by his or her Louisiana employer.

Nevertheless, the tragic news came to you that there had been a trench cave-in at your spouse's worksite, and you now face the worst possible outcome.

Preventable catastrophes

Trench excavation is a necessary part of many construction projects. Whether your loved one's job included laying utility lines, installing sewer pipes or building a structure foundation, the job likely included descending into ditches with unstable dirt on either side, the weight of which per cubic yard can equal that of a car. The risks involved in excavating trenches are many, including:

  • Poor oxygen leading to asphyxiation
  • Toxic fumes
  • Drowning in standing water
  • Cave-ins

Construction companies have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for violating the Occupational Safety and Health Association rules for trench safety. In many cases, cave-ins like your spouse's accident occur because a contractor wanted to save time or money by skipping steps to ensure a trench was safe to enter or by failing to supervise workers to verify that they followed safety guidelines. For example, trench boxes help to shore up the sides of a trench to prevent dirt from collapsing onto workers.

While it takes a few extra steps to install a trench box before entering the ditch, this one piece of safety equipment may save many lives. Additionally, monitoring the stability of the soil, especially in heavily developed areas, may allow a work crew to take extra precautions or to call in more experienced workers to handle dangerous situations. Above all, OSHA urges training and supervision to prevent tragedies like the one involving your spouse.

Moving through your grief

As you cope with the loss of your loved one, it is possible that you are dealing with other issues as a result. If you are facing hospital bills or funeral expenses, you may be relying on the death benefits from workers' compensation to help you get by.

In some cases, depending on the circumstances and the entities involved in your loved one's accident, you may be able to maximize your financial recovery by adding a personal injury claim to your workers' compensation benefits. To make such a claim, it would be to your advantage to seek experienced legal counsel.

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