It took the local fire department nearly 16 hours to recover the bodies of two workers, aged 20 and 39, who died when an unprotected 20-foot trench collapsed. As heavy equipment removed thousands of pounds of dirt and rocks, unused trench shields sat beside the excavation site.

The June 28th incident in Jarrell, Texas was the latest in a series of 22 trenching fatalities during the first half of 2022. Tragically, this half-year total surpasses the 15 trench-related deaths in all of 2021 – and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Administration (OSHA) is responding.

“There is simply no excuse for ignoring safety requirements to prevent trench collapses and cave-ins.” – Doug Parker, OSHA Assistant Secretary

Recently, OSHA announced that its compliance officers will perform more than 1,000 trench inspections nationwide. These inspections can be unannounced and occur at any time during daily operations. In addition, employers who violate OSHA safety standards could face federal or state criminal referrals.

Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than five feet, and trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person. As the tragedy in Texas shows, it’s not enough to have trench shields on-site. Someone needs to recognize that they’re required and ensure that they’re used.

“A good safety program has defined roles and responsibilities. Along with management commitment, businesses need written policies and procedures in place.” – Jim Testo, EHS Risk Management

EHS Risk Management can help you to build and implement a comprehensive safety program so that you can recognize risks and avoid incidents. By taking a proactive approach to safety, you can also strengthen the bottom line while ensuring that everyone makes it home at the end of a shift.  

To get started, contact us.

The EHS Risk Manager reduces costs and supports your organization’s performance. The EHS Portal provides a real-time process for managing and implementing your municipality’s policies and procedures. To learn more, email Jim Testo at

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