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OSHA updates its emphasis on trenching and excavations safety

Construction workers in Connecticut may be interested in OSHA's new update to its National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation. The update, which was released on Oct. 1, supplants the 1985 special emphasis instruction on trenching and excavation.

According to the 2018 NEP instruction, there were 130 recorded fatalities in trenching and excavation between 2011 and 2016. The private construction industry accounted for 80 percent, or 104 of those deaths. Nearly half of the fatalities occurred between 2015 and 2016.

OSHA states that because of these numbers, enforcement of OSHA safety standards continues to be necessary. The agency also states that there is potential for collapse in virtually all excavations, and the agency reiterates its longstanding belief that workers must be protected before there is imminent danger of collapse.

The NEP directive calls for 90 days of outreach at its offices to assist employers in complying with excavation safety standards beginning on Oct. 1. Inspections and enforcement under the revised NEP will begin after that 90-day period. OSHA's quick list of rules that accompanies the revised NEP includes safety inspection prior to anyone entering a trench, protective systems for trenches that are 5 feet deep or greater, and the shoring and shielding of trench walls to prevent soil cave-ins.

When a worker in Connecticut is injured on the job, state law makes the employer responsible for providing expenses related to the worker's recovery. Most businesses carry workers' compensation insurance, but many businesses are uninsured. Connecticut has a state fund to help injured employees of companies that do not have insurance, but it could be difficult for an injured worker to receive adequate compensation from this source. An injured worker has the right to file a claim against his or her employer for fair compensation.

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