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OSHA: An Unprotected Trench Is an Open Grave

Oct. 5, 2011
According to OSHA, two workers are killed every month in trenching operations. To address the hazards of excavation work, the agency has released new guidance materials, including a fact sheet, a poster and an easy-to-reference QuickCard.

“No worker’s life should end in a trench. Cave-ins during excavations are some of the most common and grisliest causes of worker fatalities in construction, yet they are entirely preventable,” said OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels.

Since 2003, more than 200 workers have died in trench cave-ins, and hundreds more have been seriously injured. The new guidance materials detail proper shoring and sloping; evaluations by competent persons; means of access/egress; atmospheric hazard testing; and protective systems. In addition, the guidance covers requirements under OSHA’s excavation standards.

“I am deeply troubled by the continued violations of OSHA’s trenching standards, many of which bring tragic results,” Michaels added. “These new educational materials provide clear guidance on the necessary steps that employers must take to protect workers in trenches.”

The new guidance materials are free and can be accessed online:

Fact Sheet: Trenching and Excavation
QuickCard: Working Safely in Trenches
Poster: Do Not Enter an Unprotected Trench!

Spanish-language versions of the documents are available. For more information, visit OSHA’s Publications page.

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

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