OSHA has made reducing trenching and excavation hazards a priority goal. Trench collapses, or cave-ins, pose the greatest risk to workers’ lives. To prevent cave-ins OSHA recommends:
- SLOPE or bench trench walls
- SHORE trench walls with supports, or
- SHIELD trench walls with trench boxes
Employers should also ensure there is a safe way to enter and exit a trench, keep materials away from the edge of the trench, look for standing water or atmospheric hazards and never allow workers to enter a trench unless it has been properly inspected.
OSHA has made a large variety of resource materials and information available to help employers and workers reduce hazards associated with trenching and excavation. A primary resource is Trenching and Excavation Safety (OSHA Publication 2226), which highlights key elements of the standards and describes safe work practices that can protect workers from cave-ins and other hazards. Many additional resources are available on OSHA’s Trenching and Excavation webpage.