Twenty-two workers have already been killed due to deadly trenching and excavation hazards in 2022—representing a 68% increase from the entirety of 2021. In response, OSHA launched enhanced enforcement initiatives to protect workers from known industry hazards. Doug Parker, the assistant secretary for OSHA, stated that all 22 deaths could have been prevented if employers had complied with the agency’s safety standards.
While trenching and excavation operations require protective systems to be in place and inspections to occur before workers can enter job sites, employers may fail to properly follow these precautions. This can leave workers exposed to serious hazards, including the risk of being buried under thousands of pounds of soil.
OSHA enforcement staff are now placing increased emphasis on how agency officials evaluate penalties for trenching- and excavation-related incidents, including criminal referrals for federal or state prosecution for employers whose actions (or inactions) kill workers or put their lives at risk.
OSHA is asking all employers to act immediately to ensure required protections are fully in place before employees enter or work near trenches. The agency has also asked states with OSHA-approved State Plans to have similar emphasis programs in place and implement additional measures to prevent further injuries and deaths from trenching- and excavation-related incidents.
OSHA compliance officers are set to perform more than 1,000 trench inspections across the country, reviewing excavation sites during workers’ daily duties. If these officers identify any safety concerns, Parker said OSHA is prepared to help.
“OSHA stands ready to assist any employer who needs help to comply with our trenching and excavation requirements,” Parker said. “We will conduct outreach programs, including safety summits, in all of our 10 regions to help ensure any employer who wants assistance gets it. The stakes are too important.”
For more information, visit OSHA’s website.