Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other

Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other


Protecting Workers from Trenching Hazards

Original article published by OSHA

Photo of a construction worker standing inside a properly shored trench with the text "Slope it, shore it, shield it."









Photo: OSHA

On June 28, 2022, two workers, ages 20 and 39, were installing sewer lines in an underground trench more than two stories deep when a large section of the excavation collapsed, crushing them under thousands of pounds of soil and rocks in a small city outside of Austin, Texas.

The two fatalities are among the 39 workers who died in trench or excavation work in 2022 – surpassing 15 in 2021. So far in 2023 there have been two fatalities related to a trench collapse. While we’ve taken steps to protect workers from trenching hazards – including launching our nationwide enforcement initiative – one worker fatality is too many.

Trench hazards are well-known, yet far too many workers continue to be injured or killed during excavation work. Trench collapses, or cave-ins, are more likely than other excavation-related incidents to result in worker fatalities. In a matter of seconds, a worker can become buried in thousands of pounds of soil.

No worker should ever lose their life on the job, and their families, co-workers and friends shouldn’t have to deal with the long-lasting impacts of losing a loved one. Most of these tragedies are preventable when the proper protections are in place.

We want to remind employers of the dangers of disregarding federal workplace safety requirements for trenching and excavation work and stress the importance of reducing hazards that could save lives.

Trench hazards can be controlled when employers act responsibly, train employees and follow these steps: 

  • SLOPE or bench trench walls
  • SHORE trench walls with supports
  • SHIELD trench walls with trench boxes

Help us get the word out about trench hazards and how to keep workers safe. You can find more information and resources in English and Spanish and a safety alert on our website to share with workers, including specific directives for construction employers, posters and stickers, and solutions for related hazards. To report an unsafe trench, call us at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.