OSHA’s Agency Priority Goal for 2018 aims to reduce trenching and excavation hazards.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, excavation, and trench-related fatalities in 2016 were nearly double the average of the previous five years. Twenty-three workers were killed and 12 others reported injuries in trench collapses in 2016.

trench box
This trench box saved an employee’s life when the dirt walls around him collapsed. (Photo credit: Underground Safety Equipment/NAXSA)

Trench collapses are rarely survivable. One cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 lbs.—the weight of a small automobile—giving a worker in a trench little chance of survival when walls of soil collapse.

OSHA’s goal is to increase awareness of trenching hazards in construction, educate employers and workers on safe cave-in prevention solutions, and decrease the number of trench collapses.

The agency plans to issue public service announcements, support the National Utility Contractors Association’s 2018 Trench Safety Stand Down, update online resources on trench safety, and work with other industry associations and public utility companies to create an effective public-private effort to save lives.

OSHA’s trenching and excavation national emphasis program is also under revision.