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Construction worker killed by prematurely disassembled trench box

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health reportedly determined that the April death of a worker in Oakland was preventable. The construction worker died while working in an underground excavation. This report follows the completion of an investigation that was launched immediately after the incident.

According to Cal/OSHA, the worker was in a trench box that prevented a cave-in while the dirt in an underground pump station was being compacted. Investigators determined that one worker was still in the trench when a co-worker started dismantling the trench box. This was done by using the four-hook bridle sling of an excavator to lift out the linear rails. During this operation, one of the massive rails, weighing about 5,000 pounds, fell into the trench, causing fatal crush injuries to the worker who was still inside.

Cal/OSHA says the employer willfully endangered the worker's life by not ensuring that all workers exited the trench safely before dismantling the trench box. This led to a system that is meant to protect lives to cause a worker's death. Furthermore, investigators found that the hooks on the sling that was used were inadequate and not strong enough to lift the heavy rails. Nine citations for safety violations were issued along with a proposal of hefty penalties.

Losing a loved one in a workplace accident is naturally a traumatic experience for surviving family members of a deceased construction worker, and having to deal with the unanticipated financial consequences serves to exacerbate the trauma. An experienced California workers' compensation attorney can help families to pursue financial assistance in the form of death benefits from the state-regulated insurance program. Benefits typically include coverage of the expenses related to end-of-life arrangements along with a wage-replacement package.

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