Utility Contractor

MAY-JUN 2018

As the official magazine of NUCA, Utility Contractor presents the latest information affecting every aspect of the utility construction industry, including technological advancements, safety issues, legislative developments and instructional advice.

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46 Utility Contractor | May/June 2018 O ur industry is making progress, but work- ers are still being fatally injured by trench cave-ins. The No. 1 rule of excavation safety is to use a trench protective system: sloping, shoring or shield (trench box). We call them the "Three S's of Trench Safety." When it comes to providing protective systems, OSHA is not pulling any punches. The violations are considered willful because OSHA officials be- lieve that contractors who dig trenches know pro- tective systems are required. They are especially concerned about trench safety because the last couple of years the number of workers who have been buried by a cave-in has almost doubled. As for this year, the construction industry is off to a poor start and it needs to stop. Though trenches and excavations on most jobs do not cave-in, there is no way of telling when it will happen. A cave-in may occur while your crew digs the trench, an hour or two after the trench is dug, the next day, or even a week later. No worker should ever be permitted or expected to enter into a trench more than 5-ft (4-ft in some states) deep that is not equipped with a protective system. Placing a worker in this type of situation, even for a minute, risks the worker's life and well-being be- cause you cannot predict when a trench wall is going to fail. The threat of large penalties and criminal action should not be the only reason a contractor should comply with OSHA trenching rules. Workers' lives are on the line whenever they enter an unprotected trench, even for a moment. Working in a trench without a protective system is a crap shoot: one roll of the dice could cost a worker's life. There have been too many cave-ins that have killed or seri- ously injured workers already this year. Many of these work- ers are under the age of 30, not that it really matters how old a person is when buried alive in a trench. The only way this is going to stop is if contractors, municipalities and other em- ployers whose workers must enter a trench provide and insist on the use of shoring, shields or sloping before workers enter into the trench. As leaders in underground construction, NUCA members must recognize the importance of protecting workers in the trenches. Protective systems are readily available all over the country. They are available for purchase or rental, and OSHA knows it. Workers are still being killed or seriously injured and the sad part is these accidents are preventable. However, some contractors, municipalities and other employers still fail to heed the warnings. Manufacturers of trench shoring and shields have stepped- up and engineered protective systems to handle even the toughest trenching operations. The equipment is lightweight, SAFETY MANAGEMENT One Roll of the Dice Could Cost a Worker's Life

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