In 1978, the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) mandated the use of a trench protection system for all excavations deeper than 5 ft. And 35 years later, trench safety is just as important with protection systems (such as trench shields, shoring or simply sloping trenches or excavations) being used on jobsites all across the country. Although a contractor’s designated Competent Person can design a shoring system (if the excavation or trench is not deeper than 20 ft), there are many reasons why pre-manufactured shore systems are the way to go to ensure safety. Efficiency Production, a leading manufacturer of trench shielding and shoring systems, explains why:
It takes out the guesswork of compliance. Shoring companies are required to accompany all of their trench shield and shoring equipment with Tabulated Data. The Tabulated Data sheet stipulates the engineered restrictions of the device or system depending on the soil conditions — Type A, B or C — as classified by OSHA’s standards. As long as a contractor abides by the Tabulated Data and keeps a copy of it at the worksite while the system is being installed, then he or she is compliant with OSHA.
Two Words: Professional Engineer. Most shoring companies have a Professional Engineer on staff that stamps the Tabulated Data sheet, which is required by some states. Plus, once an excavation gets deeper than 20 ft, OSHA requires a trench protection system to be designed and engineered by a Professional Engineer.
“There has never been a fatal trench collapse accident when trench shields or shoring were used within the restrictions of the Tab Data,” assures Mike West, Efficiency’s Vice President of Engineering.
Manufacturers are here to help. Don’t forget, shoring companies are ready and willing to help contractors design, implement and supply a good trench safety system or simply offer advice and expertise.
“We work directly with contractors to make sure that they are using our shoring correctly and safely,” says West. “We’ll even design a custom shoring system for a contractor; something they can use to bid a project. We do that frequently with Slide Rail, including giving the contractor CAD drawings.”
Trench safety is not complicated, and it can mean the difference between life and death for your crew. There are a lot of resources available, particularly from trench shoring and shielding manufacturers. Bottom line: There’s no excuse to not practice trench safety.
James McRay is Director of Marketing and Media for Efficiency Production Inc.