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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