Construction work is dangerous; and work involving trenching and excavating activities tends to be the most hazardous in the industry. Yet, we see trenching and excavating work going on all around us. Excavations are needed for the installation and repair of utility lines, replacement of water and sewer lines, swimming pool construction, even grave digging. Excavation projects vary considerably, each with its own set of unique problems.
In 1971, OSHA issued its first standard related to excavations and trenching. Since that time, OSHA has changed the standard in a effort to reduce injuries and fatalities. Despite these efforts, accidents related to excavations and trenching activities continue to occur at a high rate: over one hundred deaths and thousands of disabling injuries occur every year. You don’t have to lose your life to lose your livelihood. Accidents of this kind are most common in municipal and county governments, as well as small and medium size businesses.
Many who work in construction will tell you that accidents should be expected — "it’s just the cost of doing business".This is not acceptable. We must ask the question, "Why do these accidents continue to occur?" The answer can only be that the message is not getting out to those who need it most—the workers involved in trenching and excavation activities. Only informed and fully trained workers can recognize dangerous situations and therefore protect themselves. This booklet is designed to inform and educate those who must work in excavations and trenches about the dangers they face and the safe work practices that must be followed for their protection.