Can You Dig It? Ask Your Excavation Competent Person

Undoubtedly not the most pleasant reading for construction contractors, OSHA periodically publishes horror stories of fines for violations of safety rules. Specifically, in its OSHA Regional News Release last January we learned that one Hartford, Conn., construction company was slapped with a whopping $169,000 fine “chiefly for exposing its workers to cave-in hazards while repairing a sewer line in a 10-foot-deep trench…”


There was no mention of the presence of the required site excavation competent person who, if properly trained (and present) would have known a thing or two about excavation safety rules. Specifically, the company was fined because, according to the press release:   “…OSHA standards require that trenches or excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse through shoring, sloping of the soil or use of a protective trench box….”

It seems that even after OSHA informed the company of the hazards, the employer continued sending workers into the unsafe trench. One can only suppose that by this time the site’s excavation competent person must have quit in disgust or was buried by other work.

Which leads us to something every construction site needs, and is, in fact, required by OSHA: The Competent Person. OSHA mentions the position and role of the site Competent Person throughout its construction regulations.  It has long been recognized that excavation (working in trenches, sewer digs, etc.) is clearly one of the most hazardous types of construction work. So the employer needs to have someone on the excavation site, who can stop the work and correct unsafe situations.

OSHA is very serious about this. According to another news release, which talks about a Wisconsin firm facing a $60,500 fine:  “…The employer is responsible for ensuring that workers are properly protected from known workplace hazards such as trench cave-ins, a leading cause of death and injury in excavation work.”

Ask your Site Excavation Competent person these questions:

  • What are the OSHA rules about ingress and egress of excavation sites?
  • What effect do adjacent structures have on the safety of the site?
  • What types of shoring are required to prevent cave-ins?
  • What is the maximum distance allowed to an exit point in an excavation?

If your Competent Person isn’t up to speed on state and federal OSHA excavation safety regulations, it is time for some training. Here at eTraining, we are committed to giving your Excavation Site Competent Person the best and most specialized training at a reasonable cost of $89 – which is a $168,011 savings over the aforementioned OSHA fine.

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