Colorado Public Works Journal, Summer 2023

16┃ Colorado Public Works Journal INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: IN GROUND SAFETY from utility strikes to confined entry, working below grade is different, difficult, and dangerous By Sean O’Keefe Infrastructure is inherently dangerous, especially for those who build it. In this Industry Spotlight, Colorado Public Works Journal assesses risks and resolutions to in-ground construction challenges of many sorts with a cross-section of safety specialists focused on heavy civil construction and design. Shelby Hone, Trench Safety Specialist United Rentals Founded in 1997, United Rentals, Inc. is the world’s largest equipment rental company with a fleet of approximately 4,700 classes of equipment. Serving construction and industrial sites across the United States and Canada, United Rentals has a vested interest in assuring the safe use and operation of their equipment on countless projects every day. Shelby Hone, Trench Safety Specialist, takes her work to heart, as many industry partners do. “At United Rentals, I know that my work isn’t just selling people things,” says Hone who has been with United Rentals for eight years and was recently promoted to Regional Product Development Manager. “United Rentals works in partnership with clients to help solve problems for companies that build communities. My work focuses on keeping people safe while doing so.” Offering more than 180 rental products related to trench safety and shoring, United Rentals carries everything from trench shielding and hydraulic shoring to bedding containers and a complete lineup of confined space safety equipment. “The OSHA standard requires protective shoring for any trench of five feet deep or greater. There are also many significant safety concerns when people are working in confined spaces,” continues Hone. “That’s where we come in. We assist them with specific products and configurations of equipment to come up with solutions that are not only cost-effective and timely, but failsafe for the people expected to work in that trench. Using the wrong equipment or using the equipment wrong could be worse than no safety at all.” Hone shares that in Colorado, unfortunately, there have been a rash of preventable safety incidents including several deaths in recent years. Broadcasting the importance of trench safety and confined space training is more than a professional obligation, it’s a matter of conscience. Hone and others in the industry reveal that the issue of noncompliance is largely confined to the smaller contractors operating on the single-family residential scale doing sewer line repairs or foundation excavations. Though there are likely a variety of reasons steps are being skipped, the possible consequences are far too great and so far from necessary for the industry’s true professionals to remain silent. “Dirt is unforgiving, and it isn’t worth the risk,” she finishes. “Once you make the decision to enter a trench you are in there and can’t change that. Doing it safely from the beginning and having proper shoring in place is critically important.” Robin Dornfest, President, Lithos Engineering Established in 2015, Lithos Engineering specializes in tunnel and trenchless engineering solutions for underground work and serves a wide range of interests in both the utilities and oil and gas industries. Lithos was formed from the vision of providing clients with recognizable value through thoughtful site evaluations, constructable solutions, and a careful evaluation of risks in geotechnical, tunnel, trenchless, and geological engineering. President, Robin Dornfest, appreciates the complexities of the challenges his team faces every day. “Every project is different,” says Dornfest of a career that spans more than 23 years. “You never know what you’re going to get into down there. Underground construction is very challenging and unforgiving, so you must be prepared for whatever the ground throws at you.” With offices in Denver, Fort Collins, and Salt Lake City, Lithos Engineering’s geographic reach covers some of the most intense geotechnical and geological conditions in the U.S. “Most of our work involves getting down deep enough to tunnel under something, like a highway or a river, for instance. That requires a deep shaft, which always involves a shoring system