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Trench safety for spring construction projects

Posted by Kayla Eggert, AINS, ARM on May 10, 2023 8:30:00 AM

Construction projects are picking up again after the winter months and many contractors are looking for new employees in a tight job market. More projects and less experienced workers can be a recipe for disaster if workers aren’t trained properly. A major hazard in construction are trenches, and trench collapses can be deadly. In 2022, there was a sharp increase in trench collapse deaths, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put a renewed focus on keeping workers safe from trench collapse. If your construction sites include trenches, take the time to review OSHA’s materials and ensure your workers are properly trained on staying safe in trenches. It could save their lives. trench safety-1

Five things to know to stay safe in trenches

There are five main points that workers need to know to stay safe in trenches. OSHA has these tips available in a short video and in a PDF document form. The five points are:

  • Ensure there’s a safe way to enter and exit the trench.
  • Trenches must have cave-in protection.
  • Keep materials away from the edge of the trench.
  • Look for standing water and other hazards.
  • Never enter a trench unless it has been properly inspected.

West Bend has a Safety Summary titled “Excavation Safety by the Numbers” where you can find useful facts such as:

  • Ladders must extend three feet above the top of the excavation wall or protective system.
  • Equipment must be set back at least two feet from the excavation wall edge.
  • An obscured excavation of six feet or more requires fall protection.

OSHA also describes trench safety with their “Slope it, Shore it, Shield it” slogan. This slogan is also available from OSHA with a trench logo. Along with in-depth onboarding training for new workers about specific trench procedures, these short videos/posters can serve as helpful reminders throughout the construction season.

Topics: Workers' Compensation, Risk Management

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