You were a natural candidate for the latest underground construction project. After all, you’re not afraid of small spaces and you don’t have any breathing conditions that could make the job difficult, so you didn’t think you would have any problems carrying out your duties. But when you suffered an injury, you had to wonder: Was it just a risk of the job, or could it have been prevented?

Dangers of Serious Injury in an Underground Construction Site in NJ

Working in underground tunnels, shafts, and passageways is a necessary but dangerous job for all construction workers. Employees will routinely suffer poor ventilation, reduced light, difficult entry and exit from the site, and increased risk of fire, flooding, and explosion. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has outlined a number of procedures to keep underground construction workers safe, including:

  • Check-in and check-out procedures. A running tally of the number of workers underground can prevent smaller injuries as well as help locate workers in the event of a tunnel collapse. The employer is responsible for constantly maintaining a check-in and check-out procedure so that above-ground personnel have an accurate account of all workers. OSHA standards require at least one designated person be on duty above ground any time a worker goes into the underground site until the tunnel or chamber has been deemed safely completed.
  • Control of entry and exits. The employer is responsible for making sure employees have safe access to and from all work areas. This includes making sure heavy equipment is not placed or operated near entry points, but also clearly marking and protecting all openings. Access areas should be fenced off and posted with warning signs, and should be properly scaled and shored to prevent soil and materials from entering the underground site.
  • Above-ground support structure. The roof, face, and walls of all underground work areas should be inspected, to make sure the structure remains sound. The inspector should also examine ground conditions along all passageways to allow workers to travel without tripping or falling hazards. If any supports are damaged or out of place, they must be repaired as quickly as possible and the area evacuated to prevent cave-in injuries.

Does My Employer Have to Adhere to These Safety Standards?

OSHA’s safety standards apply to all private sector employers and civilian employees working in federal agencies—covering nearly all workers in the construction industry. To find out if your employer could be held liable for your construction injury, click the link on this page to read our FREE book, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers’ Comp Guide.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer