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Trenching and Excavation Fatalities

Occupational Fatalities During Trenching and Excavation Work --- United States, 1992--2001

Fatalities associated with trench collapses and other excavation hazards continue to occur despite Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards that specify safe work practices to reduce such hazards to workers (1). To assess the hazards of trenching and excavation work in the United States, CDC reviewed data from national occupational fatality records and investigative reports of fatal injuries. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which indicated that 76% of the deaths were caused by cave-ins and 47% of the deaths occurred among employees of companies with <10 workers. Employers can reduce the risk for future deaths by adhering to OSHA standards and by using education and training resources on safe excavation and trenching practices offered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), OSHA, and labor and trade organizations.

CDC reviewed data for 1992--2001 (the most recent data available to CDC) from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and reviewed reports from the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program. CFOI is a national reporting system for occupational deaths that derives data from multiple sources (e.g., death certificates, medical examiner/coroner reports, workers' compensation reports, and police reports). The CFOI research file provided to CDC does not include data for New York City (2). Trenching and excavation cases were identified in the CFOI database by using specific codes and keywords*. After the initial case selection, a manual review of narratives was performed to select appropriate cases.

Trenching and Excavation Fatalities, 1992--2001

During 1992--2001, CFOI data identified 542 fatalities associated with trenching and excavation (2). Annual totals ranged from a low of 44 in 1993 to a high of 65 in 1996 and averaging 54 fatalities per year. The average age of decedents was approximately 38 years (range: mid teens to late 70s). Of the fatalities, 256 (47%) occurred among employees of companies with <10 workers, and 381 (70%) occurred in companies with <50 workers. The industries most frequently reporting fatalities were those involved in "excavation work," followed by "water, sewer, pipeline, and communications and power-line construction". A total of 507 (94%) decedents were employed in private industry, 31 (5%) decedents were local government workers, and the remaining four (1%) were employed elsewhere. Although excavation and trenching fatalities occurred in various occupations, the largest proportion of deaths occurred among construction laborers. Cave-ins accounted for 76% of fatalities. Among decedents, the average length of employment with their employer was 6.7 years (range: <1--40 years); 86 (16%) deceased workers had been with their employer for <1 year.

This information came from a
CDC online article.

*** Any law, statute, regulation or other precedent is subject to change at any time ***

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DEMPSEY, ROBERTS & SMITH, LTD.
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