Uptick In Trench-Related Deaths Nationally

08.10.2022
HR & Safety

Officials with OSHA are sounding the alarm following a sudden increase in trench and excavation related deaths. 

According to the agency, 22 workers died as a result of trench and excavation work in the first six months of 2022 – surpassing the number of people killed in related incidents last year. 

Most recently, two workers who were less than 40 years old died in Texas after an unprotected trench collapsed. 

“Every one of these tragedies could have been prevented had employers complied with OSHA standards,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said. 

“There simply is no excuse for ignoring safety requirements to prevent trench collapses and cave-ins.”

OSHA officials said they are launching enhanced enforcement initiatives in the coming months to improve safety. 

Officials said enforcement staff will utilize all of their available tools, placing an emphasis on how officials evaluate penalties for trenching and excavation related incidents. 

Standards

Employers should consider reviewing trenching standards. 

OSHA provides the following reminders

Never enter a trench unless

  • It has been properly inspected by a competent person
  • Cave-in protection measures are in place
  • There is a safe way to enter and exit
  • Equipment and materials are away from the edge
  • It is free of standing water and atmospheric hazards.

Prevent trench collapses

  • Trenches five feet deep or greater require a protective system
  • Trenches 20 feet deep or greater require a protective system designed by a registered professional engineer

Protective systems for trenches

  • SLOPE or bench trench walls by cutting back the trench wall at an angle inclined away from the excavation
  • SHORE trench walls by installing aluminum hydraulic or other types of supports to prevent soil movement
  • SHIELD trench walls by using trench boxes or other types of supports to prevent soil cave-ins
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