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OSHA updates National Emphasis Program on trenching and excavation safety

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Washington — In response to a recent increase in trench-related worker deaths, OSHA has updated its National Emphasis Program on trenching and excavation safety, effective Oct. 1.

According to OSHA, 23 construction workers were killed in trench collapses in 2016, surpassing the combined total from 2014 and 2015.

The updated NEP:

  • Provides a national reporting system for all OSHA trenching and excavation inspections by updating guidance for recording them in the agency’s internal data management system.
  • Requires OSHA area offices and regions to develop and implement outreach programs supporting the NEP. Programs “should include providing compliance assistance material to excavation employers, permitting and other municipal organizations, industry associations, equipment rental organizations, water works supply companies, and major/local plumbing companies.”

OSHA will provide education and prevention outreach during the first 90 days of the program, and will respond to trench-related complaints, referrals, hospitalizations and fatalities. Enforcement activities will commence once the outreach program expires, with the agency expecting OSHA State Plans to match the effectiveness of the procedures outlined in the updated NEP.

“Removing workers from and helping workers identify trenching hazards is critical,” OSHA acting leader Loren Sweatt said in an Oct. 2 press release. “OSHA will concentrate the full force of enforcement and compliance assistance resources to help ensure that employers are addressing these serious hazards.”

In recent months, OSHA has released various resources intended to raise awareness of trenching safety.

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