Building a trench takes a lot of technique and skill. Unfortunately, without the proper equipment, planning, and procedures, a trench can fail, leading to eventual collapse. Imagine digging a trench, putting in adequate support, and watching it erode. You will have wasted time, effort, manpower, and sacrificed the safety of workers. While there have been many new developments and innovations, making trench construction safer and more efficient, hundreds of workers die every year from trench failures.

While this development of new technology has made trench digging safer than in years past, no trench can stand forever. In fact, standup times, or the time a trench can last before collapse, depending on several factors. Some of these include the type of soil, conditions, weather, trench structure, etc. Luckily, there are a lot of ways you can improve a trench’s longevity.

Let’s discuss trench failures more in-depth and ways one can improve a trench structure as not to have it happen on their watch.


What is trench failure?

Once a team of professionals digs a trench, workers must go down into the structure to continue work. These trenches allow them access to areas needed for further construction. This type of work is typically used in pipe construction, laying the groundwork for structures, and much more. As common as trenches are in general construction, trench failures are as well. A trench collapse or failure occurs when the walls of the trench are not correctly supported. To help prevent a trench failure, trench boxes, shields, and other equipment designed by Trench Shoring Services are put in place inside the structure.


Trench Collapse Statistics

Historically, 200-300 deaths occur annually from trench failures. In recent years, these numbers have dramatically decreased, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). While the number decreased down to 23 deaths in 2016, it is still more than doubled than the year before. So, what can we do better to get the number to zero? Fortunately, trench collapse deaths are easily preventable. If the history of trench failures has taught us anything is that improvements in recent technologies have greatly improved work conditions and procedures. We must continue to implement these improvements if we are to keep making strides towards perfection.

Since trench collapses strike fast and hard (one cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 lbs.), it is crucial construction companies continue implementing their safety procedures. Along with increased stress on safety, companies must also use the proper structural equipment if they hope to keep collapses from turning deadly.


Video Footage of Trench Collapses 

Construction companies and workers cannot stress the importance of trench safety enough. To help drive the point home, here are a couple of videos of real-life trench collapses. In the first video, watch as the entire story depicting a trench collapse is laid out in full.

The next video includes raw footage of a trench collapse in Hudson, Ohio. Two men were trapped underground after the collapse. Watch as you see the workers and professional officials try to save the men from the failure.

The last video gives you an inside view of what occurs during a trench collapse.


Trench Rescue Procedures

Trench failures typically occur when unstable soil conditions are in place, combined with improper or inadequate shoring. Along with the initial collapse, there is a potential for additional collapses is considered a primary hazard to personnel. Removing soil or debris, adding weight near the edge of an open cut, movement, rain, or the passage of time, are a few of the dangers institutions face when attempting a trench rescue.

Due to these inherent dangers, companies and city officials have procedures in-place they must follow in the event of a trench collapse. You must work with shoring service providers that follow well-founded trench rescue procedures. If you are a construction company, do the proper research to find the methods that work best. Remember that safety is vital, and performing an appropriate shoring of trench includes being prepared in the case of an accident.


Competent Person Training Trench Safety 

Along with using the right equipment, shoring properly, and implementing correct trench rescue procedures, work safety also includes competent person training. The OSHA requires a Competent Person to be on every construction project job site where workers are exposed to an open excavation. There is specific training that these workers must go through and have a knowledge of before they work on any given trench shoring project. The OSHA Construction Standard defines a competent person as someone who is:

  • capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or
  • working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and
  • who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.

For further training, Trench Shoring Services provides CPT training throughout the country. If you are ready to learn about OSHA regulations and become a Competent Person on your next project, sign up for our training services in an area near you. You may also contact us to learn more about trench failures and how you can prevent a trench failure from occurring on your upcoming projects.



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