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Construction Worker Killed In Durham Trench Collapse

by John C. Whitfield | Employment Law | Share

On average, two construction workers die every day in the United States due to injuries sustained on the job, many of which could be preventable with safer working conditions. For years, the construction industry has led the nation in preventable work-related deaths; and, the fatal statistic continues to grow each year.

Four North Carolina construction workers found themselves trapped as the result of a Durham trench collapse. Three of the workers were able to escape and one worker died. This was the second death resulting from a construction-related North Carolina trench collapse since 2017. The construction industry generates the greatest risk of physical harm for workers in terms of fatalities and work-related injuries. Cave-ins are the number one risk for workers when excavating or doing work in trenches, requiring additional safety measures such as barriers. Trench barriers, or a trench box, are standard safety units to protect construction workers from a cave-in; there was no barrier in use in Durham at the time of the accident. One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car during a cave-in.

Construction Industry Dangers

The construction industry accounts for 20% of workplace injuries and deaths. Exposure to occupational hazards is greater for construction workers simply due to the nature of their work; however, this does not mean jobsite injuries should be considered normal.

Falls while on the job are the leading risk for construction workers, accounting for 42% of construction worker deaths. When workers are given proper equipment and training that meets safety standards, many deaths can be easily avoided. It was found that of the construction workers who died as a result of falling on the job, 54% did not have access to a personal fall arrest system. Other daily threats for construction workers include:

  • Electrocution
  • Being struck by an object
  • Being caught in/between objects
  • Burns from fires, explosions, or chemicals
  • Respiratory disease from inhaling chemicals or other debris
  • Neck, back, or shoulder injuries from lifting heavy objects

Right To Safe Working Conditions

No one should fear for his or her life when going to work. In fact, workers have the right to a safe work environment under federal law. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 outlines the rights workers are afforded on the job, including:

  • Receiving training in a language the worker understands
  • Being provided with proper safety gear for the job (ex: gloves, eye protection or harnesses)
  • The right to work on safe machines
  • Protection from toxic chemicals
  • The right to review copies of workplace injury and illness logs
  • The right to request an OSHA inspection and speak with inspector

Durham Trench Collapse Attorneys

Work related injuries and deaths are complex matters involving pain, suffering, and stress. For over 25 years, the construction accident lawyers at Whitfield Bryson LLP have helped injured construction workers get the compensation they deserve.  Our experienced attorneys will investigate your claims to ensure you and your loved ones are fairly compensated. Contact us today for a free consultation.


John C. Whitfield

Founding Partner

For nearly 30 years, John has been one of Kentucky’s premier trial attorneys. He has concentrated primarily on complex civil litigation cases, and over his career has brought to settlement or judgment over 30 cases in excess of a million dollars each.

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