New OSHA Initiative Focuses on Trenching, Excavation Hazards

Published December 5, 2018

Compliance assistance specialists with OSHA area offices in the southeastern U.S. are conducting outreach to educate employers and workers on the hazards associated with trenching and excavation work. The outreach is part of a new OSHA initiative that is intended to raise awareness of preventable incidents related to working in trenching and excavations. OSHA compliance assistance specialists in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi will work with excavation employers, industry associations, equipment rental organizations, water utility suppliers, and national and local plumbing companies to discuss how to identify trenching hazards and review the requirements to implement methods to prevent collapses. These methods include sloping trench walls, shoring the walls with supports, or shielding walls with trench boxes.

In October, OSHA updated its National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation (PDF) to continue support for compliance assistance and inspection programs that address trenching and excavation operations. The NEP provides a national reporting system for all trenching and excavation inspections by updating guidance for recording inspections in the OSHA Information System.

Around the same time, OSHA published new online resources for keeping workers safe while engaged in trenching and excavating activities. The resources include a short reference for workers (PDF) and a poster (PDF) that summarize guidance for preventing trench collapses. A new web page on trenching and excavation provides more information about controlling the hazards of trenching and excavating.

Reducing fatalities from trenching and excavation is one of OSHA’s “priority goals” for 2018. The agency has reported that 37 workers died in 2016 from trench collapses or cave-ins, a significant increase from the previous five years.