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June is Trench Safety Month

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, during a trench collapse or cave-in, a worker can be buried in thousands of pounds of soil in a matter of seconds. Therefore, knowing HOW to prevent these potentially deadly occurrences (which can occur in the blink of an eye) is imperative.

June is Trench Safety Month and is a time to re-evaluate safety measures when working in trenches. The goal of Trench Safety Month is to focus on reducing trenching and excavation hazards. 

OSHA standards require that trenches and protective systems be inspected daily (and as conditions change) by a competent person before work begins.

According to OSHA, trench collapses, or cave-ins, pose the greatest risk to workers' lives. However, there are THREE specific steps which can control or prevent cave-ins:

  • SLOPE or bench trench walls
  • SHORE trench walls with supports, or
  • SHIELD trench walls with trench boxes

Employers should ensure there is a safe way to enter and exit the trench and keep materials away from the edge of the trench. Additionally, the OSHA website maintains that trenches need cave-in protection, which includes inspecting the excavation, adjacent areas, and protective systems daily at the start of a shift, after a rainstorm or any other event that may increase hazards. 

Furthermore, the site should also be inspected for standing water or atmospheric hazards, and workers should never enter a trench until it has been properly inspected by a competent person. Lastly, excavations should only be open for the duration necessary to complete the work. 29 CFR 1926.65029 CFR 1926.651, and 29 CFR 1926.652 are applicable OSHA standards.

Additional guidelines and trenching safety information can be found at https://www.osha.gov/trenching-excavation.