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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