OSHA late last week said that its inspectors and enforcement staff will "consider every available tool at the agency’s disposal” – including criminal referrals – to help stem a dramatic spike in deaths from trenching and excavation accidents.
In the first half of this year, 22 workers have died in trenching accidents compared to just 15 in the entire year 2021.
OSHA said that it will place additional emphasis on how agency officials evaluate penalties for trenching and excavation-related incidents, including criminal referrals for federal or state prosecution to hold employers and others accountable when their actions or inactions kill workers or put their lives at risk.
Under an existing emphasis program for trench safety standards, OSHA noted that its compliance officers will perform more than 1,000 trench inspections nationwide where they may stop by and inspect any excavation site during their daily duties.
NAHB members need to be aware of this increased emphasis on trenching and excavation rules and standards and use NAHB, OSHA or National Utility Contractors Association (NCUA) resources to keep workers safe on the jobsite.
Trench collapses, or cave-ins, pose the greatest risk to workers' lives while excavating. 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