19. Apr 2017

Excavation and Trench Safety is Top Priority in Demolitions

Trench collapse deaths are avoidable, yet they continue and are on the increase. Why? There may be many factors that contribute to this preventable tragedy: lack of supervision, poor training, ignorance of safety regulations, lack of time or money, or intentional disregard for meticulous standards.  Too many jobsites have extremely poor procedures and controls in place, or they may have excellent procedures and controls, yet supervisors give them short shrift.

Basic Standards in Trench Safety Must be Followed

Even more tragic is that many demolition companies do not understand the basic requirements of excavation and trench safety. At a depth of four feet, the contractor must provide a means of egress. At a depth of five feet, the contractor must install proper protective equipment and systems, in addition to keeping soil and other materials two feet away from the trench edge. All demolition contractors should know these simple rules, yet many do not follow them.

OSHA Reports Trench Deaths Have Doubled

Although every construction and demolition company states that safety is a high priority, trench deaths still occur. OSHA released statistics that show 23 trench deaths in 2016, more than double 2014 and 2015 combined, which had 11 deaths in each year. Trench collapses happen quickly, and they frequently have devastating results since one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds.

“Trench deaths have more than doubled nationwide since last year – an alarming and unacceptable trend that must be halted,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in a press release. “There is no excuse. These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know.”

Accountability in Trench and Excavation Safety

Every individual on site is responsible for maintaining trench safety standards. Moreover, failure to follow the regulations can lead to stringent penalties. Courts have held general contractors and foremen guilty of criminally negligent homicide in some cases, and companies can face crushing fines for negligence as well. In one case, OSHA stated that a company failed to provide cave-in protection, failed to train workers in trench hazards, and failed to protect workers from excavated materials rolling into a trench. This resulted in the death of a 33-year-old employer after he was crushed to death last June while he was digging in a 12-foot trench. The walls collapsed around him and buried him in thousands of pounds of dirt.

Again, trench collapse deaths are avoidable. SV Demolition makes safety at every step a top priority. We adhere to every OSHA regulation including those that pertain to trenches and excavation. Contact us today to ensure that your next demolition project has the highest safety procedures implemented.

For more information regarding OSHA’s trenching safety regulations, click here.