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OSHA renews focus on trench safety with updated national program

Plumbers, construction workers and utility workers in Texas sometimes need to excavate trenches, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants to make sure that employers and workers take the risks seriously. In October, the agency enhanced its National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation to increase resources available to help employers comply with regulations and educate workers.

The program seeks to improve compliance by distributing educational materials, such as a trenching safety poster and a new web page with information about preventing soil collapses that can injure or kill workers. Employers can also discuss specific concerns with compliance assistance specialists who can inform them about safe work practices.

One OSHA regional administrator said that a trench collapse can kill in seconds. Proper training and use of safety techniques, like sloping trench walls and trench boxes, can effectively protect workers from harm. Employers have an obligation to identify and mitigate workplace hazards according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

In case of accidents, employers must carry workers' compensation insurance to provide benefits for people hurt on the job. An injured worker does not have to prove negligence to collect these benefits, but an accident could highlight problems with workplace safety. A person could talk to an attorney about these concerns to find out how to report safety problems. Legal representation might empower a person who wants to address on-the-job hazards and collect a settlement for an accident. Services provided by an attorney may include filing an insurance claim or challenging a denial of benefits. Contentious cases sometimes prompt an attorney to recommend a lawsuit as a means of pursuing compensation for medical expenses and lost income.

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