OSHA and Partners Sign Trenching Alliance to Keep Excavation Workers Safe

To protect North Dakota workers engaged in trenching and excavation, the Occupational Health and Safety Association (OSHA) has formed an alliance with the North Dakota Safety Council, Associated Builder and Contractors of Minnesota and North Dakota, Associated General Contractors, Bakken Basin Safety Consortium, Energy Coalition for Contractor Safety, North Dakota One Call and N.D. Workforce Safety and Insurance.

Representatives from each organization gathered Monday, June 21, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. at the North Dakota Safety Council Campus in Bismarck to sign the alliance and launch their collaborative education and training efforts in order to reduce the number of trenching incidents in North Dakota.

Trench collapses, or cave-ins, pose the greatest risk to workers’ lives. When done safely, trenching operations can reduce worker exposure to other potential hazards include falls, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and incidents involving mobile equipment.

In 2020 in the United States, 21 fatalities occurred in construction trench collapses. In 2019, 24 workers were buried alive at trenching and excavation worksites. Of the 12 deadly collapses in 2020 that resulted in violations, eight were cited for inadequate cave-in protection.

Dirt is heavy. Really heavy. One cubic yard of dirt is the weight of a mid-sized car. The weight of soil is so heavy that it will crush a person. Safety experts say that most trench collapses can be prevented if proper cave-in protection is used.

To prevent trench collapses, remember to:

  • SLOPE or bench trench walls
  • SHORE trench walls with supports
  • SHIELD trench walls with trench boxes

Most trenching fatalities occurred in excavations that were only between 5 and 15 feet deep. These tragic worker deaths have long-lasting impacts on the workers’ families, co-workers and communities.

The NDSC offers several classes that address trenching safety, working daily with industry to make sure everyone gets home at the end of the day. To learn more, visit ndsc.org/take-a-course.