OSHA Announces Additional Measures for Trench Safety

OSHA Announces Additional Measures for Trench Safety

Six months into 2022, trench-related deaths are already greater than in the entire year of 2021.

In the first six months of 2022, 22 workers died from trench hazards, according to OSHA.

In 2021, only 15 workers died the entire year from these hazards.

With these numbers, OSHA announced an increase in oversight and enhanced enforcement, in part under the National Emphasis Program for excavations.

According to a press release, OSHA will use all tools available and will put “additional emphasis” on evaluating penalties. More inspections will occur across the country, where OSHA officers might “may stop by, and inspect, any excavation site during their daily duties,” OSHA said.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is calling on all employers engaged in trenching and excavation activities to act immediately to ensure that required protections are fully in place every single time their employees step down into or work near a trench,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Health and Safety Doug Parker in the press release.

“In a matter of seconds, workers can be crushed and buried under thousands of pounds of soil and rocks in an unsafe trench. The alarming increase in the number of workers needlessly dying and suffering serious injuries in trenching incidents must be stopped,” Parker said in the press release.

OSHA encourages states with their own programs to consider additional enforcement.

Trenching standards list many requirements for trench work. According to the press release, protective systems are required when a trench is more than five feet deep, trenches must be inspected prior to use, trenches must not contain water or other hazards, and materials need to be at least two feet away from the edge of the trench, including soil. The press release estimates that one cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 pounds.

OSHA has many resources on trench safety, including an On-Site Consultation Program for eligible businesses, a trenching and excavation webpage and a safety video.

About the Author

Alex Saurman is the Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety.

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