For Industry Professionals, Managers, Trades & Suppliers
J. NORMAN STARK, ATTORNEY and REGISTERED ARCHITECT
JURIS DOCTOR, B. ARCHITECTURE, B.F.A.
17000 St. Clair Avenue . Cleveland, Ohio 44110-2535
Tel.: (216) 531-5310 . Fax: (888) 833-5860 . E-Mail: www.Normstark@aol.com
In Florida . 6500 Midnight Pass Rd. #105 . Sarasota, FL 34242 . (941) 349-2061.
Construction Site Injuries and Deaths
Construction is a hazardous occupation. The fatality rate for construction workers has been estimated at more than three
times the rate for all other industry sectors. Predictably, for the seven (7) million men and women currently employed in
the construction industry, simply going to work each day can be a risky venture.
Construction workers face serious risks of injuries or death when working in trenches or near potentially unstable ground.
In one recent year, six workers died as a direct result of construction cave-ins. The National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH) statistics reports an average of 60 workers die in unprotected cave-ins each year.
BUT, these deaths are entirely preventable, and it is appalling that workers continue to suffer serious injuries or death
in "buried alive" cave-ins when, almost without exception, these deaths can be prevented with available, existing safety
precautions. Even more importantly, these precautions are mandatory under the laws applicable in almost all states and
Cave-ins are not the only threat to the safety of construction workers. Other hazards include: working at heights without
proper safety harnesses or protection, working with heavy machinery, manually handling heavy or bulky materials, and working
near or with sources of electricity, such as overhead power lines, and from failures to lock-out/tag-out live electrical
circuits during maintenance or repairs, scaffolding, cranes, rigging, and many others in any daily schedule.
Several factors contribute to trench cave-ins. For example, soil stability is related to soil types and are affected by
changes in weather. In the spring, unshored trench walls, heavy from rain, may become unstable. Also, when damp or even
sandy soil, or shale, is exposed to air during excavation, it can dry out and lose the cohesive quality to stand on its
own, increasing the risk that it will slide, or collapse. Still other factors include proximity to traveled highways,
large vibrating machinery, loosely backfilled areas or existing, aging structures and foundations.
OSHA - the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, requires that one or more of the following precautions must be
taken when working with open trenches:
Other safety requisites are readily available through OSHA and each state's workers' compensation administration, in
addition to those of industrial labor organizations.
- Utilize a shield or trench box system designed to protect workers in excavations
- Shore sides of excavations with timbers or other materials to ensure that the earth does not collapse on workers
who must enter them. (provide ladders for easy escape)
- Slope the sides of excavations to reduce the "overburden" (weight and pressure exerted by large amounts of soil on
the sides), and enhance the coefficient of friction to prevent slides./li>
- Secure sides by equivalent means, such as engineer-designed sheeting or bracing
Construction fatalities and injuries cannot be accepted as an inevitable ritual occurrence of the construction process.
Workers must be adequately protected from life-threatening hazards. Injuries and deaths can be prevented only if and when
both employers and employees are aware of the hazards they face and implement proper precautions and enforce mandated
"Age is a very high price to pay for maturity."
AUTHOR / EDITOR: J. NORMAN STARK is an Attorney-at-Law, a Registered Architect, (AIA, NCARB) Registered
Landscape Architect, Interior Designer, Planner and Senior Appraiser (ASA), admitted to practice law before the Bar of
Ohio, the US District Courts, Ohio and Illinois (Central Dist.), the US Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme
Court. He is a Mediator, Arbitrator and Litigator with experience in Business, Construction Law, and Public Works, and with
additional experience in Real Estate, Construction Attorney (Legal Project and Crisis Management), and as an Expert Witness
(Forensic Architect). His office is in Cleveland, Ohio.