There are many safety measures to protect construction workers from fires and explosions during underground work, and employers can be liable for serious injuries if they do not take every possible step to minimize danger.

Controlling and Preventing Fire in Construction Shafts and Tunnels

A shaft or tunnel can include an elevator passage, a pit where employees must travel in and out, or any other narrow space connecting the underground and above ground construction sites. Special caution must be used around these areas, including:

  • No smoking – Smoking is expressly prohibited in underground and tunnel areas.
  • No open flames – The only flames permitted in underground construction areas are welding and cutting tools, which should have limited duration and be properly screened when in use.
  • Clear signage – There should be regular and clear signs prohibiting smoking and alerting workers to fire dangers throughout the work area.
  • Fire extinguishers – Fire extinguishers must be located both above and below ground and in the cars or platforms of all working elevators.
  • Fire-resistant building materials – OSHA requires all underground structures to be constructed of materials with a fire resistance rating of at least one hour.
  • Combustible storage – No flammable material may be stored underground, and any material stored above ground must be placed more than 100 feet from the underground entrance.
  • No gasoline or machinery – All machines powered by internal combustion engines are prohibited underground. Due to its volatile nature, gasoline may also not be used in shafts, tunnels, or underground sites.

Your employer’s liability for a burn injury will depend on the specifics of your case. For instance, safety measures may not have been able to prevent the spark that stared the fire, but a spill nearby that caused the fire to spread rapidly should have been cleared before the shift began. To find out if lax safety measures helped contribute to your construction shaft burn injury, contact us today or read through our FREE book, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers’ Comp Guide.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer