Over the past two years, deaths from trench cave-ins have hit an all-time high on single-family construction sites. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, the 23 excavation and trench-related fatalities were double the average of the previous five years. In 2017, only 17 trench deaths were reported; but according to Builder Online, combined with injuries reported to OSHA involving trenches, it was the most dangerous year for trench safety in recent history.
The article suggests that accidents primarily “plague” residential projects, and often occur when sewer lines are updated or new water pipes are laid. One-quarter of all trench accidents from 2013-2017 happened at single-family job sites, and saw more trenching accidents than at pipeline dig sites and road construction.
Organizations like the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) have been offering trench excavation safety training for 28 years. George Kennedy, the group’s VP, told the publication that the problem with trenching deaths primarily centers around the growing shortage of skilled labor.
“In 2008 the industry went downhill and the numbers of fatalities went way down, because there was less work,” Kennedy said. “But now that the construction industry has bounced back and skilled labor is in short supply, builders are hiring more unskilled workers to replace those who left during the Recession.
“Now 10 years later, you’ve got a bunch of young guys coming to work with no experience, especially with trenching and excavation.”
Source: Builder Online