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Is Your Competent Person a “Trench” Competent Person?

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

OSHA’s Agency Priority Goal for 2018 aims to reduce trenching and excavation hazards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, excavation and trench-related fatalities in 2016 were nearly double the average of the previous five years. OSHA’s goal is to increase awareness of trenching hazards in construction, educate employers and workers on safe cave-in prevention solutions, and decrease the number of trench collapses.

OSHA plans to issue public service announcements, support the National Utility Contractors Association’s 2018 Trench Safety Stand Down, update online resources on trench safety, and work with other industry associations and public utility companies to create an effective public-private effort to save lives. OSHA’s trenching and excavation national emphasis program is also currently under revision. For more information on trench safety, visit OSHA’s safety health topics page.

Comments by Dennis O'Connell, Roco Director of Training & Chief Instructor

Over the past few years, Roco has made trench safety a priority goal by dedicating more than 15 articles on this website as well as a podcast to trench-related subjects in an attempt to increase awareness for trench safety and rescue just as OSHA is for 2018.

One area we have identified where facilities may be in violation is having personnel who are not “trench” competent persons sign off on trenches. Many times, the company representative is a “Confined Space Competent Person” or “Entry Supervisor,” and we are asking them to sign off that a trench shoring system is adequate when they have little or no training.

Just because you are competent person in one area does not mean you are a competent person in all of them. A confined space knowledge base is not the same as a trench knowledge base.

The OSHA Construction Standard Defines a Competent Person “as someone who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”

Key Points:
Can your competent person...

  • ·  Classify the soil type?
  • ·  Determine the appropriate protective system based on depth, width, and soil conditions?
  • ·  Assure that proper protective measures are in place?
  • ·  Perform atmospheric monitoring?
  • ·  Ensure the work site is safe for surcharge loads?
  • ·  Identify who is going to respond with trench rescue capabilities in an emergency?
    If you are unsure regarding any of these basic questions, you may need to look at the training your competent person and rescue team are getting. 
    For more information, visit our Roco Trench Rescue page to view the course description and 2018 training dates. Register today to learn more about trench safety and rescue operations.

Resource: OSHA Quick Takes
Photo credit: Underground Safety Equipment/NAXSA






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