According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the leading construction site hazard nationwide, including in Delaware, is trenching. By complying with OSHA safety regulations and providing adequate safety training, employers can eliminate fatalities and injuries.
Common trenching hazards
Knowledge and understanding of soil and rock composition are essential, and a competent person must be appointed to identify potential dangers and take mitigating action.
Collapses or cave-ins
The competent person or professional engineer must implement the appropriate system to support trench walls and prevent cave-ins. Adequate support includes shielding, sloping or installing a support system. An inspection of soil stability before each shift is crucial to identify any weather-related damage to the integrity of the trench walls.
Atmospheric hazards could include insufficient oxygen levels and the presence of chemicals and toxic gases. Testing and monitoring of trench atmospheres are essential, and appropriate respiratory protection must be provided to trench workers when necessary.
Worker and equipment falls
Trench perimeters must be marked with signs and barriers to prevent accidental falls of workers into trenches. Maintaining a clear area around the trench opening can prevent equipment from falling onto trench workers, and no suspended loads must be allowed above trenches.
Utility line hazards
Arranging for utility companies to mark lines could prevent fatalities from electrocution or being overwhelmed by gas after utility line strikes.
Designated flaggers or spotters can help to prevent operators of backhoes, dump trucks and other mobile equipment with obstructed view from running over the edge of the trench.
Although OSHA says trench accidents are preventable, seemingly insignificant mistakes or violations could cause catastrophic injuries or worse in the blink of an eye. Construction workers in Delaware might find comfort knowing that they will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Basic benefits cover medical expenses and lost wages, but those who suffer debilitating injuries might be awarded additional compensation.