Colorado Public Works Journal, Summer 2023

SUMMER 2023┃63 Ensuring Trench Safety: Reducing Trench-Related Deaths in Colorado’s Construction and Utility Industry Christine Barnes is the Executive Director of the Colorado Chapter of NUCA and can be contacted at Trenches play a critical role in construction and utility projects, but they also present significant hazards that can result in serious injuries and even fatalities. Colorado, known for its thriving construction and utility industry, has witnessed its fair share of trench-related accidents. This article aims to shed light on the importance of trench safety and explore measures being taken in Colorado to mitigate risks and safeguard workers’ lives. One example of this is the NUCA of Colorado Trench Safety Stand Down expo that brought in one hundred industry members in June. Our three shoring companies, National Trench Safety, Sunbelt Rentals and United Rentals gave presentations along with Perry Silvey, Founder of TEST (Trenching and Excavation Safety Taskforce). They displayed examples of their equipment and how to use it and followed up with a classroom session on trench safety procedures. Trenches, by their nature, pose numerous risks that can lead to devastating consequences. Collapses are the most common and deadliest hazard, often caused by inadequate shoring, unstable soil, or adverse weather conditions. Other dangers include falls, engulfment, hazardous atmospheres, and incidents involving heavy machinery or utilities. Due to the nature of these hazards, trench-related accidents demand utmost caution and preventive measures. And you can prevent these accidents. Colorado, with its vibrant construction and utility industry, has witnessed its fair share of trench-related accidents leading to fatalities. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), between 2016 and 2020, there were 17 trench-related fatalities in the state. These tragic incidents highlight the urgency of prioritizing trench safety and implementing robust measures to prevent future accidents. NUCA of Colorado recognizes the importance of protecting workers and has implemented various measures to enhance trench safety by offering training and resources through our local chapter and National Association. OSHA also actively collaborates with industry stakeholders to provide training and guidelines for safe trenching practices. The agency conducts inspections and enforces compliance with safety regulations to ensure accountability. Furthermore, our member companies in Colorado are increasingly investing in trench safety training, providing proper protective equipment, and adopting advanced technologies to mitigate risks and protect their workforce. Building a strong trench safety culture requires a collective effort from all members. Employers should prioritize safety by promoting thorough training, risk assessments, and frequent inspections. Workers must actively participate in safety programs, adhere to protocols, and report potential hazards promptly. Regulatory agencies and industry associations should continue raising awareness, sharing best practices, and advocating for stricter safety standards. By fostering a culture that values trench safety, Colorado’s construction and utility industry can significantly reduce the occurrence of trench-related accidents. For the last several years, industry associations including NUCA of Colorado have come together to put on a large Trench Safety Summit. This effort will continue October 4th at the Adams County Fairgrounds where all industry professionals are invited to attend a full day of trench related training free of charge. Registration can be found HERE Trench safety remains a crucial concern in Colorado’s construction and utility industry. By prioritizing comprehensive training, implementing strict safety protocols, and embracing technological advancements, the industry can protect workers from the hazards inherent in trench work. Ultimately, fostering a safety-first culture will ensure a safer working environment and reduce trench-related deaths, making Colorado a shining example for the nation. NATIONAL UTILITY CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION Christine Barnes Upcoming Events: August 9th – Virtual Safety Roundtable August 11th – NUCA Golf Tournament September 20th – Happy Hour/Networking October 4th – Trench Safety Summit