Trench collapses and excavation safety in 2022

By: Ray Chishti

Publication: Construction Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 04/01/2022

OSHA continues placing trench collapses and excavation protection at the forefront of its national emphasis program. One contractor previously received $79,559 in fines related to cave-in protection violations. Another contractor received $37,318 in fines for a trench collapse that resulted in a worker fatality. Excavation safety will continue to be an enforcement focus for OSHA into 2022.

It’s been a while since OSHA has significantly changed anything regarding excavation safety.
Here’s what has changed in the past:

  • Standard Interpretation:In 2004, OSHA published guidance that using aluminum forms as a means of egress from an excavation doesn’t meet its specific excavation requirements;
  • Regulation:OSHA’s 1926.651,Specific Excavation Requirements, was published in 2001;
  • Federal Register:A final rule on confined spaces in construction published in 2015; and
  • Directive:An OSHA enforcement and inspection procedure for enforcing its excavation safety standards published in 1990.

So, why haven’t there been more recent regulatory changes concerning excavation safety? It’s for the simple reason that you “don’t fix what’s not broken.” The issues regarding excavation safety across the industry aren’t stemming from the lack of OSHA regulation or guidance. Instead, it’s because employers choose not to follow the guidance or OSHA standards. Expect excavation safety to remain a national focus for OSHA throughout 2022.

About the author
Ray Chishti - EH&S Editor

Ray is an editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. and has over 12 years of EH&S experience in a variety of industries, including EPC projects, fossil fuel power plants, gas distribution and transmission, and electrical transmission work.

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