Toolbox Talk: Trench Safety

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CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

The CPWR Toolbox Talk on Trench Safety addresses the risks associated with trench cave-ins. The resource includes a ‘real-life’ case example, steps to prevent a related injury or illness, and questions for discussion. It includes an image (page 2) that illustrates the hazard, which can be posted in a central location as a reminder of steps to work safely.   Click on the following links to access the English version and the Spanish version. (English) (Español)

https://www.cpwr.com/publications/toolbox-talks

CPWR Toolbox Talk logoCave-ins are a serious risk and are much more likely to kill workers than other excavation-related incidents. Other trench hazards include falls, falling loads, dangerous gases and incidents involving mobile equipment. Workers should think of an unprotected trench as an early grave. About 1,000 injuries occur each year. Of these, about 140 result in permanent disability and 75 in death.

Here is an Example

Three laborers were working in an eight foot high, vertical wall trench when one side caved in, burying one worker and partially burying another. The third man managed to escape the trench unharmed. The partially buried man was able to escape with assistance, but the buried worker suffocated to death.

  1. Why did this accident happen?
  2. How could this fatal injury have been prevented?
  3. Have you ever had an injury from a trench cave-in, or do you know anyone who has had such an injury? If so, what happened?

Trench Safety

  • A competent person must inspect the trench for unsafe conditions before worker go in.
  • Trench protection must be provided. OSHA allows sloping and benching, shoring and shields like trench boxes.
  • Nobody works in a trench without a lookout standing by.
  • Rocks and dirt must be kept at least 2 feet away from the top of the trench.

What Are We Going to Do Today?

What will we do here at the worksite today to promote trench safety?

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OSHA REGULATION: 1926.651(k)(1)

Graphic of two workers working in a trench. One worker is acting a lookout for the other and keeping rocks away from the edge.

  • Trench protection must be provided. OSHA allows sloping and benching, shoring and shields like trench boxes.
  • Nobody works in a trench without a lookout standing by.
  • Rocks and dirt must be kept at least 2 feet away from the top of the trench.