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Why do construction trenches collapse?

On Behalf of | Jan 6, 2023 | Workers' Compensation

If you work in the construction industry, you might be no stranger to trenches. Still, the trenches you work in every day might not be quite as safe as you think. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more workers died in trench collapses during the first half of 2022 than during the entire previous year.

Trench collapses put workers at risk of suffocation and catastrophic crush injuries. Generally, though, trenches fail for only a few reasons.


Even well-constructed trenches are no match for inclement weather. Wet and dry soil alike can shift, potentially making any trench unstable. Consequently, to reduce the risk of injury to their employees, project managers must inspect trenches after all types of weather events, including wind, rain, snow and freezes.


It is not uncommon for construction trenches to be near roadways. Unfortunately, though, the vibrations cars and trucks generate can weaken the integrity of a trench. Likewise, vibrations from heavy equipment can cause trenches to shift and fail.

Stress loads

Just as the vibrations from heavy equipment can weaken a trench, stress loads can be catastrophic. Specifically, excessive weight near a trench can cause a trench to fall in on itself. Stress loads can come from heavy equipment, stored building materials or even nearby structures.

Excavated soil

When workers dig a trench, they have to put excavated soil somewhere. This soil should end up far from the trench, though. Otherwise, it might shift and fall back into the trench, potentially putting workers in extreme danger.

Even if you manage to survive a trench collapse, you might have to deal with a variety of life-changing injuries. Ultimately, regardless of the cause of the failure, you may be eligible for meaningful workers’ compensation benefits to help you cope with the fallout.