Workers who dig or excavate trenches are at risk of death if they enter an unprotected trench and there is a trench cave-ins.However, hazards associated with trench work and excavations are well defined and preventable. There is no reliable warning when a trench fails. The walls can collapse suddenly, and workers will not have time to move out of the way. Even though small amounts of dirt may not seem treacherous, a single cubic yard of dirt can weigh more than 3,000 pounds, which can fatally crush or suffocate workers. Lack of a protective system was the leading cause of trench-related fatalities in a review of OSHA inspections.
Before the job begins, train and designate a competent person to ensure safety measures are in place. Have a competent person evaluate the soil to determine its stability. Plan the job layout to identify safe locations (away from the trench) for spoil piles and heavy equipment routes. Have a competent person determine what type of protective system will be used for the job and schedule the steps needed to have the system complete and in place before workers enter. Ensure that none of the workers designated for entry into the trench are under age 18. Ensure that workers involved in the job are trained about hazards and work practices in a language that they understand and at the appropriate literacy level.
Trench Cave-ins | Competent Person
The competent person must inspect the excavation, adjacent areas, and protective systems each day before the start of work, as needed throughout the shift, and after every rainstorm. Notify other subcontractors who come on site of the trench cave-ins location and precautions and ensure that vehicles are kept a safe distance from the excavation. Ensure that ladders and other means of exit from the trench are re-positioned so that ladders are never more than 25 feet away from any worker in the trench. The competent person must remove workers from the excavation upon any evidence of a situation that could cause trench Cave-ins, such as accumulation of water in the trench cave-ins or trench protective system problems. Implement and enforce procedures to ensure that work in unprotected trench cave-ins is not allowed.
In an overall environment of physical danger where there is little margin for error, the specter of trench cave-ins looms particularly large. Federal reports show that working near unstable ground or in trenches, excavations, or other confined spaces that aren’t properly shored up may invite disaster. To prevent such disasters, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require that trenches be inspected daily and as conditions change by a competent person prior to the entry of workers.