Twenty-two workers died in trench accidents during the first half of this year, an increase of 68% throughout 2021 that has prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to launch an improved oversight initiative to better protect workers from burglary and other fatalities.
“To emphasize the dangers of overriding federal safety requirements at the site of excavation and excavation work, OSHA’s supervisory staff will consider all available tools available to the authority,” the agency said on Thursday. “These measures will place further emphasis on how government officials evaluate penalties for excavation and excavation-related incidents, including criminal referrals for federal or state prosecutions to hold employers and others accountable when their actions or inaction kill workers or risk their lives.”;
OSHA said its compliance officers will conduct more than 1,000 ditch inspections across the country “where they can stop by and inspect all excavation sites during their daily tasks,” according to the announcement.
The agency highlighted a recent “preventable” incident in Jarrell, Texas, on June 28, in which two workers were fatally injured when an unprotected ditch more than 20 feet deep collapsed on them as they worked. Protective shields, required by OSHA, sat unused next to the excavation, the agency said.