OSHA announced last week that they are opening an investigation into Trax Construction Company of Wickliffe, OH after a trench collapse buried one of their workers while he was installing a sewer line. As he was connecting sewer piping in a 8-foot deep trench, 14,000 pounds of dirt shifted unexpectedly, collapsing the trench and breaking apart a 4 by 8 piece of strand board the company was using for shoring. A co-worker dug the man out, saving him from suffocation. He was rushed to an area hospital following the incident.
This incident marked the 13th time this year that a worker was injured due to an improperly secured trenching operation. To date, collapses have killed 23 people this year. Trenching deaths have doubled since 2015, a trend OSHA has highlighted as alarming. In fact, OSHA currently has a national emphasis program in place that’s designed to reduce the number of trenching injuries and deaths.
OSHA safety standards for trenching require safety measures be put into place anytime a trench exceeds a depth of 5 feet. Trench boxes, shoring, and other means of preventing shifts in soil are essential to protecting workers who are exposed to the dangers of trench collapses. Keeping piles of soil and other materials at least 2 feet from the edge of the trench is also a required component of the current safety standards for trenches.
Below are several helpful resources developed by OSHA for assessing and avoiding common trenching and excavation risks associated with construction job sites.
- OSHA’s Trenching and Excavation Safety – OSHA’s latest publication on trenching and excavation safety. This resource covers the main points of the safety standards. It addresses practical ways to protect workers from cave-ins and other hazards associated with trenching and excavating work.
- OSHA’s Trenching and Excavation eTool – Visual guide for identifying and avoiding the four most common safety hazards associated with trenching and excavation at construction sites. A Spanish language eTool is also available with the same information.
- Excavation or Trenching Assessment Checklist – An extensive list of questions designed to guide safety assessments of hazards during trenching or shoring operations.
If you have questions about trenching safety or if you’d like help making your site safer, please give me a call at (864) 905-7835 and we’ll schedule a time to talk.