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Home | Columnists | OSHA | OSHA - Trench Safety Week is June 18 – 23

OSHA - Trench Safety Week is June 18 – 23

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

DALLAS/FT WORTH - OSHA has set June 18–23 as Trench Safety Stand Down week. OSHA is asking all contractors that do trenching conduct a training session on excavation hazards. Free training materials are available on the National Utility Contractors Association website at http://www.nuca.com/tssd including free tool box talks, a PowerPoint presentation, sign-in sheets and worker handout materials.



    Regardless of the depth of the excavation, OSHA requires a competent person to inspect conditions at the site on a daily basis. Inspections must be made as frequently as necessary during the progress of the work, to assure that the hazards associated with excavations are eliminated, before workers are allowed to enter the trench.
    The following concerns must be addressed by a competent person:
•    Evaluate soil conditions and select appropriate protective measures.
•    Construct protective systems in accordance with the standard requirements.
•    Preplan; contact utilities (gas, electric) to locate underground lines, plan for traffic control if necessary, determine proximity to structures that could affect choice of protective systems.
•    Test for low oxygen, hazardous fumes and toxic gasses, especially when gasoline engine-driven equipment is running or the dirt has been contaminated by leaking lines or storage tanks. Insure adequate ventilation or respiratory equipment if necessary.
•    Provide safe access into and out of the excavation.
Provide appropriate protections if water accumulation is a problem.
•    Inspect the site daily at the start of each shift, following a rainstorm, or after any other hazard-increasing event.
•    Keep excavations open the minimum amount of time needed to completed operations.
    Should a third-party be required to stop work, or the designated competent person does not halt unsafe acts and conditions, this individual is not acting “competently” within the meaning of the standard.
    Protective systems are methods of protective workers from cave-ins of material that can fall or roll into an excavation, or from the collapse of nearby structures. If an excavation is less than five ft. deep, OSHA does not require a protective system unless the competent person sees signs of a potential cave-in. (It is important to remember that a wall collapse in a trench four and 1/2 ft. deep can still have serious results!)
    For trenches between five ft. and 20 ft. deep, shoring and sheeting, shielding, sloping and benching are all acceptable protective measures. It is up to the planners of the construction project and the competent person on site to determine which systems will work best. If an excavation is greater than 20 ft. deep, a registered professional engineer must design the protective system.
512-374-0271 x232

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