Working underground poses many threats to the well being of your workers. Cave-ins, exposure to hazardous gases, and low levels of oxygen can result in unexpected injuries with severe consequences.
In part one of this two-part guide, our Florida OSHA defense attorneys outlined some of the dangers associated with excavation and trenching, the requirements for staying safe, and the protective systems designed to keep your workers from suffering an on-site injury. In part two, we will detail the importance of daily inspections, safe access and egress, and general rules for maintaining OSHA compliance.
In accordance with OSHA standards, trenches must be inspected daily to account for any changes in conditions. Inspections must be performed by a competent person before workers enter the site. A competent person is defined as “an individual who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards or working conditions.” This includes hazardous, unsanitary, or dangerous conditions that can potentially harm employees. The competent person is authorized to remove any hazardous elements from the site.
Entry and Exit
OSHA requires that excavation sites have safe entries and exits. This includes any apparatus used to facilitate safe entry or exit from an excavation such as ladders, steps, and ramps. These guidelines are mandatory for any trench excavation with a depth of 4 feet (1.22 meters) or greater and must be located within 25 feet (7.6 meters) of all workers.
OSHA has outlined a series of general rules to keep workers safe during excavations. Instilling this information in your team can prevent a wide breadth of accidents.
- Avoid leaving heavy equipment in close proximity to the edges of a trench.
- Keep surcharge loads a minimum of 2 feet (0.6 meters) away from trench edges.
- Visibly mark the locations of underground utilities.
- Test for low oxygen levels and the presence of hazardous fumes and toxic gases.
- Inspect trenches prior to each shift.
- Inspect trenches after a rainstorm.
- Never work beneath raised loads.
Excavation and trenching are two unavoidable components of construction. It is important to carefully follow OSHA regulations to keep your team safe and your project running smoothly on schedule. Otherwise, you might find yourself trying to dig yourself out of a legal hole without a shovel.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.