- Safety and Health Topics
- Trenching and Excavation
Trenching and Excavation
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, excavation and trench-related fatalities in 2016 were nearly double the average of the previous five years. OSHA has made reducing trenching and excavation hazards the Agency's Priority Goal. Trench collapses, or cave-ins, pose the greatest risk to workers' lives. To prevent cave-ins:
- 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 the trench. Keep materials away from the edge of the trench. Look for standing water or atmospheric hazards. Never enter a trench unless it has been properly inspected.
Resources on OSHA's construction regulations, hazard recognition, and possible solutions.
Hazards and Solutions
Describes how soil analysis should be conducted to determine appropriate sloping, benching, and shoring for preventing cave-ins and how employees should be trained on all trenching hazards before beginning work.
Publications, videos and other resources to help employers keep workers safe.
- Protect Workers in Trenches. OSHA Poster (Publication 3215), (2018). Also available in Spanish.
- Trench Safety: Slope It. Shore It. Sheild It. OSHA Sticker (Publication 0088), (2018). Also available in Spanish.
- Working Safely in Trenches. OSHA QuickCard™ (Publication 3243), (2018). Also available in Spanish.
- Trenching and Excavation Public Service Announcement (Transcipt). (June 2018). Also available in Spanish (Transcript).
- National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation. OSHA Directive CPL 02-00-161, (October 1, 2018). Describes policies and procedures for continued implementation of an OSHA National Emphasis Program (NEP) to identify and to reduce hazards which are causing or likely to cause serious injuries and fatalities during trenching and excavation operations.
- NUCA's Trench Safety Stand Down was June 18-23, 2018.
Workers have the right to:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
- Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.
For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.
How to Contact OSHA
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.