Rise in Trench Collapses Drives Urgency for NUCA's Safety Training

Rise in Trench Collapses Drives Urgency for NUCA's Safety Training

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The National Utility Contractors Association’s Trench Safety Stand Down for 2023 officially ended Sept. 1. This year’s industry-wide event held in June reinforced a basic fact to all attendees: Safety training is critical to a well-functioning utility construction job site and an employee’s daily activity.

“Time and time again, evidence shows that the key to significantly reducing the risks associated with our industry is employee training and reinforcement through events such as the Trench Safety Stand Down,” says Mike Flowers, NUCA’s director for safety,
training and education.

For the 2023 event, 25,812 employees participated in a stand down training event held by 455 companies on 2,487 job sites across the week of June 19-23. These participation numbers were higher than 2022 as more companies realize TSSD enhances their existing safety programs. The event officially concludes at the end of the summer season, and after all attendee reports possible are collected by NUCA from company safety directors and participants.

NUCA first held the TSSD was first held in 2016, with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration joining as a partner a year later. The goal of the event is to reach out to the many workers who work in and around trenches and excavations to provide them with information about current excavation requirements and safety procedures for working in trenches. This year’s event occurred at hundreds of job sites across the nation, reaching tens of thousands of NUCA member’s employees.

TSSD week is used by industry safety professionals to hold safety training, educational seminars, live demonstrations of trench rescues and other activities to reinforce the message of trench safety.

OSHA’s standard on trenching and excavation (1926.650, Subpart P) requires protective systems for trenches that are 5 feet or deeper, unless the excavation occurs in stable rock. The agency warns that trench collapses are “rarely survivable” because a cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds.

From 2011 to 2018, 166 workers — or about 21 workers every year — lost their lives from trench collapses, per OSHA, but 2022’s 39 fatalities almost doubled that average.

Across the year, NUCA’s Safety, Training, Awareness and Recognition program also provides a venue for every company in the utility construction industry to measure the effectiveness of their safety programs and recognize how these important company programs can be improved.

By reaching as many workers as possible, the number of fatalities and serious injuries that occur each year in the industry can be reduced and make others — such as municipal and industry workers who are also exposed — aware of these serious hazards. The 2024 TSSD will be held in mid-June. NUCA’s webpage on the 2023 TSSD event is available at nuca.com/tssd.


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