Trenching accidents almost always involve an unthinkable event that can lead to injury or death: Being buried alive. But every trench failure is avoidable with proper planning, training and safety measures.
The National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) organizes an annual Trench Safety Stand Down in the middle of June; this year it is June 20-24. The stand down gives employers, supervisors and foremen the opportunity to speak directly to workers about trench and excavation hazards.
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
According to NUCA, most trenching accidents occur in trenches of 5-15 feet deep, and there is usually no warning before a cave-in.
The Trench Safety Stand Down is a good time for home builders to review their procedures for digging and excavating. NAHB has a video toolbox talk (embedded below) builders can use to present to their workers and subcontractors, and additional resources in the NAHB Trenching and Excavation Toolkit.
Those who participate in next week’s stand down are encouraged to take pictures of their sessions and post them to social media using the tag #TSSD2022. If you have not yet made plans to discuss trench safety next week, please consider using these additional resources: