Trenching and Excavation: OSHA Updates Emphasis Program

In response to a sharp increase in trenching and excavation worker deaths, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its National Emphasis Program on the topic.

The updated program, which began on October 1, 2018, features two major changes as highlighted by OSHA. It provides a national reporting system for all OSHA trenching and excavation inspections, and it establishes the requirement for each OSHA Area Office or Region to develop outreach programs supporting the emphasis program.

Per OSHA, the outreach “should include providing compliance assistance material to excavation employers, permitting and other municipal organizations, industry associations, equipment rental organizations, water works supply companies and major/local plumbing companies.”

Between 2011 and 2016, there were 130 recorded trenching and excavation fatalities, with 104 in the private construction industry. Of those fatalities, 49 percent occurred in 2015 and 2016. The National Emphasis Program is part of OSHA’s effort to curb this alarming trend.

In a news release, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt said it is critical to help workers identify trenching hazards. “OSHA will concentrate the full force of enforcement and compliance assistance resources to help ensure that employers are addressing these serious hazards.”

The emphasis program starts with a three-month period of education and prevention outreach, where OSHA will respond to complaints, referrals, hospitalizations and fatalities. After this three-month period, enforcement will begin and remain in effect until cancelled.

SCT’s team of trenching and excavation experts can guide you through all aspects of OSHA’s standards.  Our in-house experts boast decades of experience working with every type of companies, from small local businesses to large corporations and municipalities. Whether through on-site audits, engineering design, or customized employee training, SCT has you covered.

Call today at 1-800-204-1729 or complete the contact form below for your free, no obligation consultation.








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National Protect Your Hearing Month is October 2018

Can you hear me now? Hopefully you can, because October is National Protect Your Hearing Month.

But if you’re one of the 22 million workers exposed annually to hazardous noise levels at work, it might be a struggle. According to the Centers for Disease Control, occupational hearing loss is the most common workplace injury in the U.S.

On top of the human toll of injured workers, occupational hearing loss also costs employers millions of dollars every year. According to OSHA, U.S. businesses pay out about $1.5 million in penalties for not protecting workers from noise. Another estimated $242 million is spent annually on workers’ compensation for hearing loss injuries.

How loud is too loud?

If noise levels reach 85 decibels, it can damage your hearing after repeated exposure of longer than eight hours. What is 85 decibels? It’s loud enough that you must raise your voice to be heard by someone an arm’s length away. Many sounds reach this level, including lawn mowers, vacuums, or using earbuds with the volume level at about 70 percent.

Noise at 95 decibels (when you have to shout to be heard at arm’s length) can be a risk to your hearing in less than an hour.  Bulldozers, sirens, chain saws, and large sporting events are louder than 95 decibels.

Damaged hearing can make it difficult or impossible to hear high-pitch frequencies, and also make it hard to communicate with others. Researchers are also exploring if loud noise at work can have additional health effects, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Source: CDC

How to Protect Workers

Most people have seen or used ear plugs and ear muffs, but those are not the only – or most effective – ways to protect the hearing of workers.

Engineering controls involve modifying or replacing equipment. Examples include:

  • using low-noise tools and machinery
  • maintaining and lubricating machinery and equipment
  • placing a barrier like a curtain or a sound wall between the noise source and the employee
  • enclosing or isolating the noise source

Administrative controls, which are changes in the workplace or schedule that reduce worker exposure to noise, can also be highly effective. These include:

  • operating noisy machines when fewer workers are present
  • limiting the amount of time a worker is exposed to the hazard
  • providing a quiet rest area for workers to remove themselves from the noise
  • move employees farther from the noise source; every doubling of distance between the worker and the noise source decreases the exposure by six decibels

National Protect Your Hearing Month is the perfect time to ensure your hearing conservation program is all it can be. Contact the OSHA Workplace Safety Experts at 1-800-204-1729 or complete the contact form below.








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SCT trench safety training

OSHA Releases new Trench Safety Training Video

SCT trench safety training

 

Excavation work is one of the most hazardous construction operations to perform. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that trenching and excavation hazards in construction activities cause 50 fatalities per year, on average.

The hazards associated with trench work are typically both recognizable and preventable, so education and awareness are critical to understanding safe excavation practices.

What’s more, excavation and trenching are consistently at the top of OSHA willful violation list.  With this in mind, OSHA has just released a new public service video providing a quick, minute-long overview of “5 Things You Should Know to Stay Safe” when working with trenches.

OSHA’s 5 key trench safety training takeaways are:

  1. Ensure safe entry and exit
  2. Trenches must have cave-in protection
  3. Keep materials away from the edge of the trench
  4. Look for standing water or other hazards
  5. Never enter a trench unless it has been inspected

The OSHA trench safety training video is a supplement to existing posted general trenching excavation rules.  OSHA’s General Trenching and Excavation Rules are:

  • Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges.
  • Inspect trenches at the start of each shift.
  • Inspect trenches following a rainstorm.
  • Keep surcharge loads at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) from trench edges.
  • Know where underground utilities are located.
  • Do not work under raised loads.
  • Test for low oxygen, hazardous fumes and toxic gases.

At SCT, we’re experts in trenching and excavation safety, boasting some of the most experienced trench safety training professionals in the nation. Please contact us for any questions you have regarding excavation and trenching safety training and best practices.








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Safe and Sound Week 2018: How to Succeed

From August 13 through 19, it’s Safe and Sound Week, a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the value of safety and health programs that include management leadership, worker participation, and a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards in workplaces.

Spearheaded by OSHA, Safe and Sound Week encourages any business that cares about the health and safety of its employees to participate.

OSHA has outlined a simple three-step plan to participate in Safe and Sound Week:

  • Select your activities
  • Plan and promote your events
  • Recognize your participation

You should always make time for safety, but if you are in a hurry, check out our video that will help you identify some common hazards during Safe and Sound Week.

Be sure to check out our complete Safety Video Library on our website or on our YouTube Channel. Feel free to use our videos as part of your regular Toolbox Talks!

Ready to take the your safety program to the next level? Contact the OSHA Experts at SCT today!








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Spike in trench-related deaths yields construction hazard alert

A public health research center in Kentucky has issued hazard alert in 2018 to raise awareness about an increase in trench-related fatalities first seen in 2016.

In its January 2018 Hazard Alert, the Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program from the Kentucky Injury Prevention Research Center (KIPRC) put out the alert after evaluating three cases of fatal trench collapses within the state from 2015 to 2017.

Though complete data on national rates of trenching fatalities and injuries for fiscal year (FY) 2017 is currently unavailable, by May 2017 there had been 15 recorded fatalities, which is 65 percent of the total number of fatalities seen in FY 2016.

In FY 2017, which covers October 2016 through September 2017, federal OSHA cited 29 CFR 1926.651, or Specific Excavation Requirements, 673 times. Those citations yielded assessed penalties of $3,066,257.

We wrote about the climbing fatality rate in trenching in 2016 when the first reports of the elevated numbers were released. The safety rules and guidelines for trenching and excavation work include multiple preventative measures to protect against trench collapse, which leads the causes of trench-related fatalities and injuries.

One cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, about the size of a mid-sized car.

Soil is heavy, and the life expectancy of a worker trapped beneath earth is mere minutes. Trench collapse with encasement robs the worker of air, and the victim asphyxiates.

Trenches between five and 20 feet in depth are required to have protective measures like benching, shoring, sloping and shielding. Beyond 20 feet deep, a registered professional engineer must design a protective system for the trench.

OSHA’s Construction eTool on Trenching and Excavation offers some great starter tips on evaluating your worksite and improving your work safety conditions. It is imperative, however, to make safety a priority and ensure you create a trenching and excavation safety program that meets all federal, state and local guidelines and that will protect workers.

Dennis Hobart, SCT’s director of construction services, has spent the past two decades working specifically with trenching and excavation construction projects. He assists project managers in designing safe trenches and training workers on how to maintain trench structures and work safely within trenches.

Our recently launched video series, The ABCs of Safety, takes viewers through the basics of important safety concepts. Do you work with trenching and excavation projects? Stick with our series and you may find an upcoming video especially relevant to you! Check out the Letter A video below.

Contact SCT today to talk trench-related safety by filling out the form below!








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Trench Collapse Injuries & Deaths Spike in 2016

While overall workplace injuries are continuing a downward trend, 2016 has seen an unsettling rise in trench collapse injuries and deaths.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 23 workers have been killed and another 12 injured in trench collapses this year. In 2015 and 2014, 12 workers were killed in similar fashion during each of those years.

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Two of these fatal trench collapses occurred in Ohio. A 28-year-old man was killed in a collapse in Mentor on March 28, and a 33-year-old man died in a collapse in Washington Township in June.

“Trench deaths have more than doubled nationwide since last year – an alarming and unacceptable trend that must be halted,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels in a news release. “There is no excuse. These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know.”

Just one cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, which means trench collapses are difficult to survive.

Trenches that are 5 feet deep or more require a protective system, which includes benching, sloping, shoring or shielding. Other general rules include:

  • Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges.
  • Identify other sources that might affect trench stability.
  • Keep excavated soil (spoils) and other materials at least 2 feet from trench edges.
  • Know where underground utilities are located before digging.
  • Test for atmospheric hazards such as low oxygen, hazardous fumes and toxic gases when > 4 feet deep.
  • Inspect trenches at the start of each shift.
  • Inspect trenches following a rainstorm or other water intrusion.
  • Do not work under suspended or raised loads and materials.
  • Inspect trenches after any occurrence that could have changed conditions in the trench.
  • Ensure that personnel wear high visibility or other suitable clothing when exposed to vehicular traffic.

OSHA Standards 29 CFR 1926.651 and 1926.652 spell out more rules that must be followed, including competent person requirements.

Make sure you do your part to eliminate trenching and excavation injuries in 2017. Having trained supervisors and workers who can react quickly to a trenching collapse incident can help prevent injuries and deaths.

At SCT, we offer training classes to ensure your employees are properly educated on all the safety standards. Contact us today at 1-800-204-1729 or fill out our contact form below.








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