OSHA's NEP to enforce trenching and excavation safety guidelines

OSHA has added to its series of National Emphasis Programs, this time with one on trenching and excavation safety. Employers in Kentucky who want to ensure compliance with the federal safety guidelines in this field can consult a newly updated Trenching and Excavation Quick Card. In addition, they can reach out to their regional OSHA office for assistance.

This is because the NEP, which went into effect Oct. 1, is providing a three-month span of education and prevention outreach. Employers, permitting agencies, equipment rental companies and water works supply companies can all benefit from these OSHA materials.

After this period of outreach, OSHA's compliance officers will be conducting "drive-by inspections" of any open trenches or excavation sites. This is regardless of whether or not officers note a safety violation. When conducting programmed inspections, officers can look for trenching and excavation operations on the work site and widen the scope of their inspection accordingly.

Statistics show that a trenching and excavation NEP was badly needed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has stated that between 2011 and 2016, there were 130 trenching- and excavation-related fatalities. Almost half of them occurred between 2015 and 2016, showing an alarming upward trend. Roughly 80 percent took place at private construction sites.

By following federal safety guidelines, employers can prevent most cave-ins and other incidents during their trenching and excavation projects. In the event of an injury, though, an employee can file for workers' compensation and be covered for a part of their lost wages. To obtain a reasonable amount in medical expenses, they will need to show that their reported injuries are all accident related. This is where a lawyer and their professional network can come in. The lawyer could also appeal a denial of the claim.

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