OSHA Updates Excavation Safety Program

The federal agency is putting a new emphasis on outreach and enforcement efforts

OSHA Updates Excavation Safety Program

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In response to a recent spike in trenching fatalities, OSHA has updated its National Emphasis Program (NEP) on preventing trenching and excavation collapses. The NEP will increase education and enforcement efforts with OSHA inspectors recording trenching and excavation inspections in a national reporting system, and each area OSHA office developing outreach programs.

"Removing workers from and helping workers identify trenching hazards is critical," says Loren Sweatt, deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, in a press release announcing the update of the program. "OSHA will concentrate the full force of enforcement and compliance assistance resources to help ensure that employers are addressing these serious hazards."

The program began Oct. 1 and is an update of the federal agency’s 1985 NEP on trenching safety. It starts with a three-month period of education and prevention outreach. During this period, OSHA will continue to respond to complaints, referrals, hospitalizations and fatalities. Enforcement activities will begin in force after the outreach period and remain in effect until canceled.

The announcement of the program comes after a steady climb in trench cave-in deaths in recent years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 10 such deaths in 2014, 18 in 2015 and 33 in 2016. Officials numbers for 2017 are expected to be released in December, but according to unofficial date compiled by the Center for Construction Research and Training, there were at least 21 trenching-related deaths.

OSHA has developed a series of new compliance assistance resources to help keep workers safe from trenching and excavation hazards. The agency’s trenching and excavation webpage also provides information on trenching hazards and solutions.


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