If you had to guess the most dangerous job in construction, you might imagine it involves working at extreme elevations, possibly welding the support beams for tall buildings before the structure really takes shape. Maybe you might think of the dangers involved in wiring and handling electricity.
If either of those were your guess about the most dangerous part of construction work, you’d be wrong. The biggest risk in construction involves the tasks that humans have undergone for about as long as civilization has existed. Excavation and the creation of trenches is the riskiest aspect of construction work according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Those who work in excavation have a greater risk of dying on the job than any other construction professionals.
Why is trench work so dangerous?
Being at a lower grade is dangerous for a number of reasons. During extreme weather situations or infrastructure failure, a trench could suddenly flood, which is rare but notable. More frequently, the most pressing concern will be the potential of a cave-in or mudslide. If construction crews don’t have proper supports, like trench boxes, in place, the earth around the trench could suddenly shift and trap workers, injuring or possibly killing them.
Beyond that, workers in trenches have the risk of being in a vulnerable position with regard to large machines, whose operators may not be able to clearly see the people in the trenches below. There’s also the risk of something dropping on them from above.
All of those risks combined with the potential for overexertion while digging or the potential to be struck by equipment make trenches and excavations one of the most high-risk aspects of any construction job.
Crushing accidents could easily end someone’s construction career
A cave-in or caught-between accident that occurs in a trench doesn’t have to be fatal to end someone’s construction career. It could leave them with severe physical injuries that prevent them from doing blue collar labor at all in the future. There is also a noteworthy risk of psychological consequences from such an accident making the claustrophobic work often performed in trenches and other construction sites untenable for someone who has survived such an incident.
Both workers hurt while helping excavate a job site and families who lose a loved one in a tragic trenching accident may have the right to claim workers’ compensation benefits after the excavation incident.