It sounds melodramatic, but it’s a reality: an average of 25 workers are killed each year in trench accidents. Over half involve workers employed at companies with fewer than 50 employees.
Although trench deaths have declined since OSHA commissioned a study in 2003 designed to identify why so many deaths were occurring and to create a plan to address the problem, trenching and excavation work still continues to pose a danger.
OSHA has an excellent resource to help employers with trenching and excavation safety. It’s a PDF document that explains the difference between a trench and an excavation and the dangers associated with each. It explains various types of protective systems and how to prevent injuries and deaths associated with cave-ins.
The resource also discusses the different types of soil and outlines the safety precautions needed for each. For example, sandy soil will need to be dealt with differently than clay.
In order to keep workers safe, employers will need to do some preplanning to ensure they know how to set up a safe job site for each trenching and excavation project.