Take a Stand on Trench Safety

National association encourages plumbers to increase awareness of excavation hazards.
Take a Stand on Trench Safety
A 19-year-old male was buried alive after a trench caved in on workers, Feb. 13, in Cypress, Texas. (Photo and video courtesy ABC 13 Eyewitness News)

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The National Utility Contractors Association is urging plumbers and contractors involved with trenching operations to hold a Trench Safety Stand Down.

Accidents caused by cave-ins and other trenching hazards often lead to fatalities and serious injuries, which are preventable. The National Trench Safety Stand Down, June 20-24, is intended to raise awareness of trenching and excavation hazards in construction and other industries, and to reduce accidents and injury.

In February, a 19-year-old male was buried alive after a trench caved in on construction workers.


What is a Safety Stand Down?
A Safety Stand Down presents the opportunity for employers to talk directly to employees and others about safety. Stand Downs are meant to focus on trench and excavation hazards and reinforce the importance of using trench protective systems and protecting workers from trenching hazards.

Stand Down goals
The goal is to reach out to the many employees who work in and around trenches and provide them with information about current excavation requirements and safety procedures. The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries that occur each year in our profession, and make others who are also exposed aware of the serious hazards.

Who can participate?
Anyone who wants to prevent trench/excavation hazards in the workplace can participate in the Stand Down. NUCA encourages utility construction, residential, highway construction, plumbers, military, unions, associations and safety equipment manufacturers to participate.

How to conduct a Safety Stand Down
Companies can conduct a Trench Safety Stand Down by taking a break to have a toolbox talk or another safety activity to draw attention to the specific hazards related to working in and around trenches and excavations.

Recognition of participation
Companies and agencies that participate are asked to provide feedback about their Stand Down, such as when it was held, how many workers participated, and how you shared information with employees. NUCA will collect the information, publicize the overall total number of participants, and publish the names of the companies that held a Trench Safety Stand Down. NUCA also will provide a Certificate of Participation to participating groups.

Download the Trench Safety Stand Down completion form

Suggestions to prepare for a successful Trench Safety Stand Down

1. Start early. Make everyone in your organization know that this is your top priority. Designate a coordinator to organize the Stand Down. If you have multiple work sites, identify the team that will lead the Stand Down at each site. Identify members of your management team that will participate in conducting the Stand Downs. Assign different managers (upper and middle managers, project managers, estimators, etc.) to separate projects during the Stand Down, to reinforce the commitment of your company leadership.

2. Request subcontractors, owner, architects, engineers, or others associated with your projects to participate in the Stand Down.

3. Review your trench/excavation safety program. This will help provide a more effective Stand Down.

a. What types of incidents could happen?

  • Cave-ins
  • Struck-by
  • Trips and falls
  • Materials handling
  • Other

b. What needs improvement? Is your program meeting its goals? Are you experiencing fatalities, injuries or near misses? Are employees aware of the company's trenching/excavation procedures?

c. What training have you provided to your workers? Does it need revision?

d. What equipment have you provided to your workers? Is better equipment available?

4. Decide when to hold the Stand Down and how long it will last. Decide if the Stand Down will take place over a break, a lunch period or some other time. Set a date and time for your companywide Stand Down and announce it in advance so managers can plan for it.

5. Develop presentations or activities that will meet your needs. Decide what information will be best for your workplace and workers. The meeting should provide information to workers about hazards, protective methods and the company’s safety policies, goals and expectations. Provide Stand Down information and materials in advance to persons who will be responsible for providing the Stand Down. Plan to involve employees in the discussion and see if they have any concerns or suggestions. Hands-on exercises (a work site walk-around, equipment checks, etc.) can increase retention.

6. Promote the Stand Down. Demonstrate a strong commitment and promote the importance of trench safety. Place fliers and posters at your job sites to promote trench safety and the safety Stand Down. Inform everyone on your job sites of the upcoming safety Stand Down so managers and workers can plan around it. This will be a companywide Stand Down and everyone is expected to participate, including all managers. Some employers find that serving snacks and lunch increases participation.

7. Ask workers (crews) to audit their respective work areas and identify hazards before the Stand Down.

8. Hold your Stand Down. Use the materials you select in advance of the Stand Down. Make the Stand Down interesting to workers. Try to make it positive and interactive. Discuss the findings of their audits. Let workers talk about their experiences and encourage them to make suggestions.

9. Follow up. If you learned something that could improve your trench/excavation program, make the necessary changes. Identify and control unsafe work practices and conditions.


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