There has been an increase in the number of workers killed during trenching and excavation operations. OSHA reported 130 such fatalities between 2011 and 2016. Nearly half died between 2015 and 2016, and about 80 percent were in the private construction industry. Construction workers in Louisiana should know that OSHA has taken an important step to increase enforcement of trenching and excavation safety standards.
On October 1, 2018, OSHA released an updated National Emphasis Program for trenching and excavation. For 90 days following that date, OSHA’s regional and area offices will be providing outreach to employers who need help with compliance.
Afterward, Compliance and Safety and Health Officers will be inspecting all open trenches and excavations regardless of whether they violate standards. If any violations are in plain view, the CSHOs can widen the scope of the inspection. They may also inspect operations after taking incidents, referrals and complaints into account.
Meanwhile, employers will want to ensure that their trenches meet the basic requirements. If they are 5 feet or deeper, trenches require a protective system. If they are 20 feet or deeper, their system should be designed by an engineering professional and include hydraulic supports to shore the wall and prevent soil movement. Trench boxes will prevent soil cave-ins. A competent individual should inspect the trenches every day or whenever conditions change.
Safety compliance will not prevent all workplace injuries, but victims can still be reimbursed for their monetary losses thanks to the workers’ compensation program. If an accident or illness proves fatal, the decedent’s family members could file for death benefits. These cover funeral expenses and a percentage of the decedent’s weekly wages in accord with the number of beneficiaries. Whatever the situation may be, it’s a good idea to hire a lawyer for the filing process. An attorney could appeal if a claim is denied.