Accidents involving trenches on home building sites pop up in the news from time to time. What is often overlooked or unmentioned is the horrific nature of what happens in a trenching accident: Someone is buried alive. But every trench failure is avoidable with proper planning and trench safety measures.
The National Utility Contractors Association is organizing the annual Trench Safety Stand Down the week of June 14. The stand down gives employers, supervisors and foremen the opportunity to speak directly to workers about trench and excavation hazards.
Since 2011, nearly 40% of all trenching fatalities have occurred at residential construction sites. With proper preparation and adherence to safety protocols, the number of trenching accidents and fatalities could — and should — drop to zero.
Trench collapses, or cave-ins, pose the greatest risk to workers’ lives. To prevent cave-ins, jobsites should use OSHA’s “Slope It. Shore It. Shield It.” method:
- SLOPE or bench trench walls
- SHORE trench walls with supports, or
- SHIELD trench walls with trench boxes
The Trench Safety Stand Down is a good time for home builders to review their procedures for digging and excavating. NAHB has a toolbox talk builders can use to present to their workers and subcontractors.
Those who participate in this week’s stand down are encouraged to take pictures of their sessions and post them to social media using the tag #TSSD21. If you have not yet made plans to discuss trench safety this week, please consider using some of the resources below: