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Labor and Economic Opportunity

MIOSHA Reminds Construction Employers - Employee Training Can Reduce or Eliminate Excavation and Trenching Accidents

AUGUST 20, 2004 -  Cave-ins are the most feared trenching hazard in the construction industry. Excavation protection is essential, since the sides of a trench can collapse with great force and without warning, burying workers beneath tons of soil before they have a chance to react or escape. Since 1994, 19 Michigan workers have died in trench collapse accidents.


Cave-ins however, are not the only threat to these construction workers. They also face hazards associated with:

  • Underground utilities,
  • Working with heavy machinery,
  • Manual handling of materials,
  • Working in proximity to traffic, and
  • Electrical hazards, such as overhead power lines.


The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) is launching an extensive awareness campaign to help reduce or eliminate excavation and trenching accidents. The MIOSHA program is part of the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth (DLEG).


"Trenching accidents are a major cause of job-related injuries and fatalities in Michigan," said DLEG Director David Hollister. "Employers are required to provide protection when workers are exposed to the risks of cave-ins and other excavation hazards. Workers can be trapped or killed when decisions are made to shortcut safety."


Trench sloping and support systems are required by the MIOSHA Construction Safety Standard, Part 9, Excavation, Trenching, and Shoring. This standard covers the digging of excavations and trenches that an employee is required to enter, and the supporting systems used on construction operations. Part 9 also requires a trained and experienced "qualified person" to evaluate excavation hazards.


Excavation and trenching incidents can be anticipated and prevented. MIOSHA rules require construction employers to implement safety and health programs that address the variety of hazards they face. The MIOSHA Construction Safety Standard, Part 1, General Rules, Rule 114, requires an accident prevention program at every construction worksite. 


The MIOSHA Construction Safety and Health (CSH) Division and the Consultation Education & Training (CET) Division are initiating a proactive campaign to help ensure that supervisors and employees involved in excavation work receive, at a minimum, the training required by the Construction Safety Standards, Part 1, General Rules, and Part 9, Excavation, Trenching and Shoring. Training must include:

  • The safe operation of equipment,
  • The recognition and avoidance of hazards in the workplace,
  • The hazardous substances to which workers may be exposed, and
  • The hazards of confined spaces.

Employees at excavation and trenching sites must be able to recognize hazardous conditions before an accident occurs. It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that their employees possess, at a minimum, adequate training on the above issues and all other training required by standards specific to the work operation or exposure. Proper training can reduce accidents, related costs and lost production, as well as avoid MIOSHA citations and penalties.


"The MIOSHA program is dedicated to protecting the safety and health of Michigan's working men and women," said MIOSHA Director Doug Kalinowski. "We are encouraging construction employers to use all available resources, including MIOSHA outreach services, to provide required employee training."


Because of the recognized higher hazards in excavation and trenching, these work operations are a focus in the MIOSHA five-year strategic plan. MIOSHA is coordinating the awareness campaign to remind employers that employee training is required - and to provide training opportunities through CET Division services.


As part of the awareness campaign, MIOSHA is sending letters to more than 4,100 Michigan employers identified as having work activities that may include excavation and trenching, and letters to 23 associations or organizations that may represent the construction trades. MIOSHA is also partnering with trade associations and individual companies to sponsor the training. 


Companies can contact the Consultation Education & Training (CET) Division at 517-322-1809 for seminar dates, locations and partnering opportunities. For more information on MIOSHA standards and excavation and trenching hazards, companies can contact the Construction Safety and Health (CSH) Division at 517-322-1856.


Read more Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs news releases.