According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, excavation and trench-related fatalities in 2016 were nearly double the average of the previous five years. OSHA has made reducing trenching and excavation hazards the Agency's Priority Goal. Trench collapses, or cave-ins, pose the greatest risk to workers' lives. To prevent cave-ins:
SLOPE or bench trench walls
SHORE trench walls with supports, or
SHIELD trench walls with trench boxes
Employers should also ensure there is a safe way to enter and exit the trench. Keep materials away from the edge of the trench. Look for standing water or atmospheric hazards. Never enter a trench unless it has been properly inspected.
29 CFR 1926.650, 29 CFR 1926.651, and 29 CFR 1926.652 are applicable OSHA standards.
Protect Workers in Trenches. OSHA Poster (Publication 3215), (2018). Also available in Spanish.
Trench Safety: Slope It. Shore It. Sheild It. OSHA Sticker (Publication 0088), (2018). Also available in Spanish.
Working Safely in Trenches. OSHA QuickCard™ (Publication 3243), (2018). Also available in Spanish.
Trenching and Excavation Public Service Announcement(Transcipt). (June 2018). Also available in Spanish (Transcript).
National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation. OSHA Directive CPL 02-00-161, (October 1, 2018). Describes policies and procedures for continued implementation of an OSHA National Emphasis Program (NEP) to identify and to reduce hazards which are causing or likely to cause serious injuries and fatalities during trenching and excavation operations.