Trenching and excavation sites are one of the most dangerous places in construction, and special emphasis on the danger working in excavations is given in Focus Four training. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 271 workers were killed during trenching and excavation work between 2000 and 2006. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also reports that 488 deaths have resulted from trenching and excavation work between 1992 and 2000 or an average of 54 deaths annually. That is 54 employees who will not be returning to their families. OSHA’s data shows that weekly, two workers die from trenching cave-ins.
OSHA notes that accidents associated with trench work and excavation are preventable. In pursuance of 29 CFR 1926 Subpart P, construction workers and their employers should keep the following in mind:
– Trenches deeper than 1.5 meters should employ the use of a protective system. A protective system won’t be needed for trenches made from stable rock.
– Trenches that are 20 feet deep or more should use a protective system designed by an engineer. The design should be in pursuance of the provisions of 1926.652(b) and (c).
– A competent person must conduct trench inspections daily and before worker shifts. This competent person is trained to recognize hazards in the trenches, know how to identify soil types, and prescribe the right protective systems and corrective actions to remove hazards from the site. They must inspect trenches before and after a rainstorm or any event that could affect the safety of the trench.
– Make use of the right ladders and devices as a means of going into and exiting excavations. These devices should be within access of about 25 feet from workers.
– Do not work under suspended loads.
– Heavy equipment should be kept at a distance (at least two feet) from trenches. The same goes for excavated soil, which has to be kept away at a safe distance.
– Prior to digging know where underground utilities are located.
– The trench should be evaluated for the presence of hazardous gasses.
– Workers who work within the trench should wear protective clothing that can be easily seen.
Know more about the engineering and administrative controls, protective systems, and safety measures that you need to observe and implement for trench work by visiting OSHA’s dedicated page on Trenching and Excavation. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Preventing Worker Deaths from Trench Cave-Ins also highlight safety tips for workers involved in trench work. Visit our blog section regularly for EHS industry tips and updates.