By nature, trenching is dangerous work, and a number of criminal prosecutions have confirmed that employees who are involved in this high-risk operation must be protected from serious injury and death. Construction workers on Pennsylvania job sites may want to know about two of these high-profile criminal cases. They may also want to consider possible legal options in the event that a trenching accident results in a serious injury.
After a trench collapse at a site in Manhattan caused the death of a 22-year-old worker in 2015, city prosecutors obtained a conviction of the project’s general contractor on manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges. A subcontractor pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The general contractor and subcontractor were each fined $10,000 with an additional $100,000 in penalties levied against the subcontractor by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. While a supervisor received probation and community service in the criminal proceedings, a job site foreman was sentenced to one to three years in prison.
In a case that is in progress, a contractor and its owner have been criminally charged following a trench collapse in Boston. Two workers lost their lives in the 2016 accident. So far, the company is facing OSHA fines of almost $1.5 million in connection with 18 safety violations.
Employees who suffer loss due to workplace injuries may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Because a single cubic yard of dirt can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds, injuries inflicted during a trench collapse may be catastrophic. An attorney could work to ensure that employees and families who are negatively impacted in connection with a trenching accident their rightful share of compensation.