Twenty-three workers were killed and 12 others injured in trench collapses in 2016 – an alarming increase from the previous year. "There is no excuse,” said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary.
"These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know."
Among the victims was a 33-year-old employee, crushed to death this summer as he dug a 12-foot trench for a plumbing company out of Ohio. An OSHA investigation found that they failed to protect its workers from the dangers of trench collapses. The company was issued two willful and two serious violations, with proposed penalties of $274,359.OSHA's trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, with soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.
OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations with the goal of increasing hazard awareness and employer compliance with safety standards. For more information, read the news release.
Source: OSHA QuickTakes December 1, 2016, Volume 15, Issue 26
Comments from Dennis O'Connell, Roco Director of Training & Chief Instructor
In the above OSHA Newsletter, they highlight this growing problem. Besides the loss of human life, the “SERIOUS” and “WILLFUL” violations paragraph should get you asking, “Are we doing what we should be for trenching in our facility?”
The new OSHA statistics show in 2016, we have two people a month dying in trenches, which is double the amounts for 2014 & 2015. Why, is the soil getting more dangerous? I can only speak to what I have seen in trends in industry that may be contributing to this rise. In previous articles, I have discussed the subject of trench and trench rescue and some of the following concerns:• We are relying heavily on subcontractors to do trench work in our facilities.
• Entry Supervisors are not properly trained as Trench Competent Persons and are assuming the contractor is taking all necessary precautions.
• Our Confined Space Entry Supervisors are signing off on trenches as Confined Spaces and not as trenches.
• Rescue - most locations have not trained or equipped their rescue team to handle a possible trench rescue situation even though trench work is a common daily occurrence in most refineries and large municipalities.
• Trench rescue entities are far and few between. Most municipalities are ill equipped to handle trench collapse rescue.