Employers in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. know that trenching and excavation operations can be fraught with hazards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there have been 130 trenching- and excavation-related fatalities between 2011 and 2016. Nearly half of these occurred between 2015 and 2016, revealing an upward trend. Also, 80 percent of these fatalities were at private construction sites.
In response to the trend, OSHA has instituted a National Emphasis Program in regard to trenching and excavation safety that went into effect on Oct. 1. This same date marks the start of a three-month outreach period where OSHA's area and regional offices provide compliance assistance to employers. Employers can also consult OSHA's newly updated Trenching and Excavation Quick Card to make sure they follow the safety guidelines.
After the three months are over, OSHA will be dispatching its compliance officers to conduct "drive-by inspections," as some call them, of any open trenches and excavation sites. Even during planned inspections, officers will look for trenching or excavation and widen the scope of their inspection if such activity is discovered.
Employers can reduce the risk of on-the-job injuries if they follow OSHA's safety guidelines. However, this will not prevent all work accidents. Injured employees, for their part, can take advantage of the workers' compensation program and potentially get covered for part of their lost wages as well as for medical expenses and any short- or long-term disability leave. If a claim is denied, a lawyer could evaluate the case and mount an appeal.