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NIOSH Safety and Health Topic:

Trenching and Excavation

Trenching and excavation hazards resulted in at least 542 construction fatalities between 1992 and 2001, or 54 deaths annually. Soil stability, soil type, changes in weather, and unshored trench walls all can contribute to trench cave-ins. Hazards associated with trench work and excavation are recognized and preventable, yet injuries and fatalities associated with these hazards continue to occur. Regulations and consensus standards describe engineering controls, protective equipment, and safe work practices to minimize hazards for workers during trench work and excavations.


NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Trenching and Excavation
NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.

NIOSH Publications

Preventing Injuries When Working with Hydraulic Excavators and Backhoe Loaders
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-107
Esta Pãgina en Español En Español
Workers who operate or work near hydraulic excavators and backhoe loaders are at risk of being struck by the machine or its components or by excavator buckets that detach from the excavator stick. NIOSH recommends that injuries and deaths be prevented through training, proper installation and maintenance, work practices, and personal protective equipment.

Trench Safety Awareness Web-based training
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2006-133D
This Web-based training exercise contains material on conducting a safe trenching operation. Topics include the four types of trench collapse, the frequency and cost of trench collapses, trench soil types, and common trench protective systems.

Occupational Fatalities During Trenching and Excavation Work --- United States, 1992--2001
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: April 23, 2004 / 53(15);311-314
Summary analysis of occupational fatality records and investigative reports which indicate 76% of trenching and excavation deaths were caused by cave-ins and 47% of deaths occurr among employees of companies with <10 workers.

Preventing Deaths and Injuries From Excavation Cave-Ins: NIOSH Alert
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 85-110
Presents four case studies of worker deaths in trench cave-ins, as well as recommended work practices, overview of standards, more...

NIOSH Update: Trench Cave-ins
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 93-110
Briefly describes worker deaths from trench cave-ins and provides recommendations for prevention. Summary of NIOSH Alert 85-110.

Development of Draft Construction Safety Standards for Excavations
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 83-103 (Volumes I & II)

NIOSH Safety and Health Topic: Confined Spaces

NIOSH Safety and Health Topic: Construction

FACE Reports

The NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program is designed to identify and study fatal occupational injuries. The goal of the FACE program is to prevent occupational fatalities across the nation by identifying and investigating work situations at high risk for injury and then formulating prevention strategies to those who can intervene in the workplace.

Youth Laborer Dies in Trench Collapse - Michigan - FACE 2000-03

Construction Worker Dies After Being Buried In A Trench That Caved In - Minnesota FACE Investigative Report 96MN073

Construction Laborer Dies In Trench Cave-In At Oil Tank Removal Site in Massachusetts - FACE Investigative Report 97MA031

Pipe Layer Died when a Trench Wall Gave Way - Texas FACE Report No. 98TX14501

Independent Contractor Dies in Sewer Line Excavation Engulfment --Alaska FACE Investigative Report 93AK011

Other Resources

OSHA Safety and Health Topic: Trenching and Excavation
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OSHA Safety and Health Topic: Construction (Trenching and Excavation)
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OSHA Construction eTool: Trenching and Excavation
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OSHA Standards for Excavation
Excavations are defined to include trenches.
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Trenching and Excavation

workers excavating trench