Just to keep our members in the loop that Fed OSHA is looking at their safety standards and this can effect Cal OSHA’s Regulations down the line. So please revisit your Trenching and Excavation Policies and programs and make sure they are being enforced and adhered to in the field.

Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Excavation standards, 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1926, Subpart P, contain requirements for excavation and trenching operations.

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.

Primary Hazard is Collapse

The primary hazard of trenching and excavation is employee injury from collapse. Soil analysis is important in order to determine appropriate sloping, benching, and shoring.

Additional hazards include:

  • Working with heavy machinery;
  • Manual handling of materials;
  • Working in proximity to traffic;
  • Electrical hazards from overhead and underground power lines; and
  • Underground utilities, such as natural gas.

OSHA also supported the National Utility Contractors Association’s (NUCA) 2018 Trench Safety Stand Down that ran in June. OSHA further updated online resources on trench safety, and is working with other industry associations and public utility companies to create an effective public-private effort to save lives.

During NUCA’s Trench Safety Stand Down project companies conducted a Trench Safety Stand Down by taking a break to have a toolbox talk or another safety activity to draw attention to the specific hazards related to working in and around trenches/excavations.

Upon completion of the program NUCAcollected data and planned to publicize the overall total number of participants, and publish the names of the companies that held a Trench Safety Stand Down.

NUCA’s goal was to reach out to the many workers who work in and around trenches and excavations to provide them with information about current excavation requirements and safety procedures for working in trenches.

By reaching as many workers as possible their hope is to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries that occur each year in the industry, and make others, such as municipal and industry workers who are also exposed, aware of these serious hazards.

The project was open to anyone who wanted to prevent trenching and excavation hazards in the workplace. NUCA encouraged utility construction, residential, highway construction, plumbers, military, unions, associations, educational institutes, and safety equipment manufacturers to participate . Visit www.nuca.com for more information.

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

By Colin Fluxman, OSHA News