2023 Trench Safety

Posted June 20, 2023 Safety, Expert Tips

Trench Safety Stand-down (TSSD) Week is an important event that takes place from June 19-23, 2023. Organized annually by the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA), the stand-down aims to promote trench safety awareness and emphasize the critical role of protective systems in safeguarding workers from the hazards associated with trenching and excavation work.

Trenching and excavation involve the digging of deep, narrow trenches for various purposes, such as utility installation, foundation construction, and infrastructure repair. While these activities are necessary, they inherently carry risks that can lead to severe injuries or fatalities. Common hazards include cave-ins, falling objects, hazardous atmospheres, and contact with underground utilities.

Employers bear both a legal and ethical responsibility to protect their workers from harm. Implementing effective protective strategies is crucial for mitigating risks and preventing accidents. Here are some essential protective measures that employers should prioritize:

  • Sloping: Adjusting the trench walls to create a slope that reduces the risk of cave-ins. The angle of the slope should be determined based on soil conditions and the depth of the trench.
  • Shoring: Utilizing supporting structures such as aluminum hydraulic or timber shoring to prevent soil movement and cave-ins. Shoring systems provide vertical support to the trench walls.
  • Shielding: Employing trench boxes or shields to shield workers from cave-ins. These robust structures act as a protective barrier against collapsing soil.
  • Benching: Creating a series of steps or horizontal levels within the trench walls to prevent soil movement. Benching enhances stability and reduces the risk of cave-ins.

Comprehensive training and education programs are crucial for ensuring that employees are well-versed in trench safety protocols. Training should encompass hazard recognition, proper use of protective systems, emergency response procedures, and regular inspections. Ongoing education guarantees that workers stay informed about the latest safety practices.

Compliance with local, state, and federal regulations is essential to maintain a safe work environment. Employers should familiarize themselves with relevant safety standards, such as the Excavation Standard established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and regularly review their trench safety protocols to ensure they meet or surpass the required standards.

Promoting a safety culture is vital in reinforcing the importance of trench safety. Employers should foster open communication, encourage employee involvement in safety initiatives, and adopt a proactive approach to identifying and addressing potential hazards. Recognizing and rewarding safe practices further emphasizes the value placed on employee well-being.

In 2022, an alarming number of individuals (39) lost their lives while performing trench or excavation work in the United States, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor. By implementing proper training, utilizing protective systems, and nurturing a safety culture, employers can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and ensure the well-being of their employees during trenching and excavation activities. Let us collectively prioritize trench safety and work towards creating a safer environment for all workers involved in these operations.

Please note that the information contained in this posting is designed to provide general awareness in regard to the subject matter covered. It is not provided as legal, medical, or tax advice, nor is it intended to address all concerns in your workplace or for public health. No representation is made as to the sufficiency for your specific company’s needs. This post should be reviewed by your legal counsel or tax consultant before use.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]