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OSHA Updates National Emphasis Program in Response to Surge in Trench-Related Deaths

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its National Emphasis Program on trenching and excavation safety (PDF) after a spike in the number of workers who died in trench-related incidents in recent years.

The update, which went into effect on October 1, comes after more people died in trench-related accidents 2016 alone (23) than in 2014 and 2015 combined. This update established a national reporting system for all excavation and trenching inspections conducted by OSHA by changing how its internal data management system records the information. It also requires agency regions and offices to establish outreach programs designed to support this update, which should,

“include providing compliance assistance material to excavation employers, permitting and other municipal organizations, industry associations, equipment rental organizations, water works supply companies, and major/local plumbing companies.”

For the first 90 days of this new program, OSHA will provide workplaces with prevention outreach and education in addition to responding to fatalities, hospitalizations, referrals, and complaints connected to trench-related incidents. After the 90 days are up, OSHA’s enforcement activities will commence.

“Removing workers from and helping workers identify trenching hazards is critical,” OSHA acting leader Loren Sweatt said in an Oct. 2 press release. “OSHA will concentrate the full force of enforcement and compliance assistance resources to help ensure that employers are addressing these serious hazards.”

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