OSHA Releases New Materials on Trenching Safety

Unprotected trenches are among the deadliest construction hazards, as shown by more than 200 fatalities and hundreds of serious injuries since 2003, according to the agency.

New guidance material from OSHA is aimed at educatikng workers and employers about trenching hazards, OSHA released them Oct. 3 and said unprotected trenches are among the deadliest construction hazards, as shown by more than 200 fatalities and hundreds of serious injuries since 2003 from trench cave-ins.

"No worker's life should end in a trench. Cave-ins during excavations are some of the most common and grisliest causes of worker fatalities in construction, yet they are entirely preventable," said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "I am deeply troubled by the continued violations of OSHA's trenching standards, many of which bring tragic results. These new educational materials provide clear guidance on the necessary steps that employers must take to protect workers in trenches."

The three new products are available on OSHA's Publications page:

  • "Trenching and Excavation" fact sheet, an overview of the hazards that can occur while performing trenching operations and safety measures needed to protect workers
  • "Working Safely in Trenches" QuickCard, a quick guide to hazards and safety measures
  • A "Do Not Enter an Unprotected Trench!" poster for posting at construction workplaces

The three cover proper shoring and sloping; evaluations by competent persons; means of access and egress; atmospheric hazard testing; protective systems; and OSHA's excavation standards (29 CFR 1926.650, 29 CFR 1926.651, and 29 CFR 1926.652). Spanish-language versions of the documents are available.

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