In response to a rise in trenching and excavation fatalities—22 workers have suffered fatal injuries in trenching and excavation work so far this year, surpassing the 15 fatalities in all of 2021—OSHA announced plans for 1,000 excavation inspections. The 22 deaths represent a 68% increase over 2021.
Agency compliance safety and health officers (CSHO) now may stop by and inspect any excavation site they encounter during their daily duties.
The agency plans to hold employers and others accountable when their actions or inactions kill workers or put their lives at risk using every available enforcement tool, including penalties and criminal referrals for federal or state prosecution.
OSHA’s trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials must be kept at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. Trenches also must be free of atmospheric hazards and standing water, have a safe means of entering and exiting, and be inspected by a knowledgeable person before allowing a worker to enter.
In addition to inspection and enforcement, the agency offers consultation services for employers that need compliance assistance.