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.

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