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From the Desk of Executive Director Bryon Short

From the Desk of Executive Director Bryon Short - August 5, 2022

According to a recent OSHA news release, “In 2022’s first six months, 22 workers have fallen victim to the deadly hazards present in trenching and excavation work – surpassing 15 in all of 2021 – and prompting the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to launch enhanced enforcement initiatives to protect workers from known industry hazards.” In response to this significant increase in trenching and excavation incidents, OSHA is directing their compliance officers to perform more than 1,000 trench inspections nationwide.

OSHA has stated that to ensure the severity of the risks involved in trenching and excavation work, it will consider, “every available tool at its disposal.” This includes criminal referrals for federal or state prosecution when OSHA believes workers lives have been put at risk due to an employer’s actions or inaction. The news release points to a recent incident in Texas where two workers were killed working in an unprotected trench 20 feet deep while trench shields lay on the ground beside the excavation.

Last August, in conjunction with AGC, DCA provided a trenching and excavation safety course that many of our members took advantage of. As reviewed in the course, trenches deeper than 5 feet require protective systems with soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of the trench. Trenches must be inspected by knowledgeable workers, free of standing water and atmospheric hazards, and have a safe means to enter and exit prior to their use.

DCA’s Education and Training Committee has encouraged members to consider utilizing OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program. This program provides free comprehensive on-site safety and health consultation surveys for small and medium sized businesses in construction and other industry sectors. The surveys help businesses to identify potential workplace hazards, improve safety management systems, and assist in compliance with federal OSHA requirements. The OSHA personnel staffing the On-site Consultation Program stress that they are separate from OSHA’s enforcement officers.

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