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OSHA - April is “Safe Digging Month”

image Joann Natarajan, Compliance Assistance Specialist, OSHA, Austin, TX

AUSTIN - Before starting work, the OSHA Excavation standards require employers to do the following:







•    Determine the approximate location(s) of utility installations — including sewer, telephone, fuel, electric, and water lines. One common industry practice is to call 811, the “Call Before You Dig” number, to establish the location of any underground utility installations in the work area.
•    Contact and notify the utility companies or owners involved to inform them of the proposed work within established or customary local response times.
•    Ask the utility companies or owners to establish the location of underground installations prior to the start of excavation work. If they cannot respond within 48 hours as required by state law, or cannot establish the exact location of the utility installations, employers may proceed with caution, which includes using detection equipment or other acceptable means to locate utility installations.
•     Determine the exact location of underground installations by safe and acceptable means when excavation operations approach the approximate location of the installations.
•    Ensure that while the excavation is open, underground installations are protected, supported or removed as necessary to safeguard workers.
    OSHA generally requires that employers protect workers from cave-ins by:
•    Sloping and benching the sides of the excavation;
•    Supporting the sides of the excavation; or
•    Placing a shield between the side of the excavation and the work area.
    The “Damage Prevention Councils of Texas” are dedicated to underground utility damage prevention, along with the promotion of the “811 – Call Before You Dig” message and the Common Ground Alliance Best Practices. Currently, there are 23 Regional Councils encompassing the State. These councils hold free to attend Annual Safety Days that include live equipment demos, industry networking, and live Mock Line Strikes across the State of Texas.  Each Damage Prevention Council holds a monthly meeting which is open to all who are concerned with damage prevention.  To locate your local council meeting or to attend a free safety day event:  http://dpcoftexas.org/
    Additionally, the National Utility Contractors Association has set June  18 – 23 as Trench Safety Stand Down week.   NUCA is asking all contractors that do trenching conduct a training session on excavation hazards.  Free training materials are available on their website at   http://www.nuca.com/tssd   NUCA has made available free tool box talks, a PowerPoint presentation, sign-in sheets, and worker handout materials.

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