OSHA Compliance – Increases Excavation and Trenching Enforcement

OSHA Compliance – Excavation and Trenching

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that it is stepping up their safety enforcement and education with an excavation and trenching National Emphasis Plan. This OSHA compliance activity will last for a period of at least three months but could go on for an indefinite period of time. The Agency stated, “OSHA will concentrate the full effect of their enforcement and compliance assistance resources to help ensure employers are addressing these serious hazards.”

This new plan became effective on October 1, 2018. The reason for this program is because there has been a marked increase in trenching fatalities. In 2016 alone, the number of these accidents was nearly two times the average for the past five years combined.

OSHA reported that “because of the continuing incidence of trench/excavation collapses and accompanying loss of life, the agency has determined that these worksites continue to warrant an increased enforcement presence. OSHA has long maintained that employees exposed to potential cave-ins must be protected before the excavation face is in imminent danger of collapse, because OSHA believes that there is a potential for a collapse in virtually all excavations.”

If you are uncertain as to whether your business in is compliance with these safety regulations, it is important to take advantage of their three-month grace period. During the grace period, OSHA regional and area offices will conduct outreach and assist with safety compliance. The outreach programs offered will include seminars for employers, labor groups and trade associations, as well as a free onsite consultation programs to help identify potential hazards.

After this time, OSHA compliance officers will conduct inspections, and business owners and contractors could be subject to steep fines.

It’s no secret that trenching and excavation are some of the most hazardous construction operations there are. Countless dangers are involved with these projects, which cause hundreds of injuries and fatalities every year. Cave-ins are the most dangerous, and result in the most fatalities. Other dangers can include incidents involving problems with equipment, falls, and hazardous conditions.

It is important to ensure that your business is in compliance and your employees are safe. OSHA recommends the following:

Employ Protective Systems

  • Slope or bench trench walls
  • Shore trench wall to prevent soil movement
  • Shield trench walls to prevent cave-ins

Prevent Collapses

  • Any trench 5 ft. or deeper requires a protective system
  • Any trench 20 ft or deeper requires a protective system created by a professional engineer

Don’t Enter a Trench Unless

  • Cave-in protections are present
  • There is a safe entry and exit
  • It has been properly inspected
  • There are no materials near the ledge
  • There are no atmospheric hazards or free-standing water

This is a good time for construction businesses, contractors and any company with a building project planned to review their policies and ensure they are following trenching and excavation safety rules. This can take a great deal of time and energy, and includes pre-planning, and ensuring that employees are following proper safety procedures and daily inspections.

If you have any questions or concerns about this new development, please contact us for guidance on this and any other construction law related issue.