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OSHA's area offices to enforce trench and excavation safety

Between 2011 and 2016, OSHA recorded 130 fatalities during trenching and excavation operations. Nearly half of those deaths occurred between 2015 and 2016 alone. This has prompted OSHA to revise the National Emphasis Program regarding trenching and excavation so that safety standards for this field can be enforced better. North Carolina residents who work in construction will want to know what the revisions entail.

The revised NEP went into effect October 1, 2018. The first 90 days have been designated as a period of outreach, where OSHA's area and regional offices help employers with safety compliance. After that, the Compliance and Safety and Health Officers will conduct inspections of every open trench and excavation regardless of whether they violate standards or not.

CSHOs will have the ability to widen the scope of inspections if any health hazards or violations are clearly seen. They can also inspect operations based on any incidents, referrals and complaints linked to it. Employers, for their part, are required to inspect their trenches every day and whenever conditions change.

The basic requirements remain the same. Trenches that are 5 feet or deeper require cave-in protective systems, and a registered engineering professional must design it if the trench is 20 feet or deeper. These systems should include hydraulic supports and trench boxes. Trenches should be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards.

Even if employers meet the requirements, they cannot prevent every accident. Employees who are injured, perhaps through their own fault, can still be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. They will need to report the incident to their employer and make their intentions known. Injured workers may be asked to prove that their reported injuries are related to the incident. This is why having legal representation is important. A lawyer could even assist with the appeal if the claim is denied.

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