Who do the regulations apply to, and how?
When will a Trench Permit be necessary?
Excavations solely to place a foundation generally fall outside the definition of a trench (according to c. 82A) therefore they do not require a trench permit. Building Code and Trench Regulations provide for many of the same General Public protections, with some exceptions.
Note: this permit is similar to the Street Opening Permit, the application may be included with that application.
What is needed to obtain a permit?
Do excavators need a permit even in the case of an emergency?
What do authorities look for at a trench site?
Municipalities are required to shut down trenches where a violation is found and may take other actions.
When do permitting authorities order an immediate shutdown?
What are effective protections for the General Public?
This is only a partial listing of 29 CFR 1926.650. For a full listing visit the OSHA website.
Inspections must be conducted by a competent person who:
The estimated location of utility installations, such as sewer, telephone, fuel, electric, water lines, or any other underground installations that reasonably may be expected to be encountered during excavation work, shall be determined prior to opening an excavation.
Means of egress from trench excavations. A stairway, ladder, ramp or other safe means of egress shall be located in trench excavations that are 4 feet (1.22 m) or more in depth so as to require no more than 25 feet (7.62 m) of lateral travel for employees.
Exposure to vehicular traffic. Employees exposed to public vehicular traffic shall be provided with, and shall wear, warning vests or other suitable garments marked with or made of reflectorized or high-visibility material.
Exposure to falling loads. No employee shall be permitted underneath loads handled by lifting or digging equipment. Employees shall be required to stand away from any vehicle being loaded or unloaded to avoid being struck by any spillage or falling materials. Operators may remain in the cabs of vehicles being loaded or unloaded when the vehicles are equipped, in accordance with 1926.601(b)(6), to provide adequate protection for the operator during loading and unloading operations.
Where oxygen deficiency (atmospheres containing less than 19.5 percent oxygen) or a hazardous atmosphere exists or could reasonably be expected to exist, such as in excavations in landfill areas or excavations in areas where hazardous substances are stored nearby, the atmospheres in the excavation shall be tested before employees enter excavations greater than 4 feet (1.22 m) in depth.
Adequate precautions shall be taken to prevent employee exposure to atmospheres containing less than 19.5 percent oxygen and other hazardous atmospheres.
Adequate precaution shall be taken such as providing ventilation, to prevent employee exposure to an atmosphere containing a concentration of a flammable gas in excess of 20 percent of the lower flammable limit of the gas.
Employees shall not work in excavations in which there is accumulated water, or in excavations in which water is accumulating, unless adequate precautions have been taken to protect employees against the hazards posed by water accumulation.
If water is controlled or prevented from accumulating by the use of water removal equipment, the water removal equipment and operations shall be monitored by a competent person to ensure proper operation.
Where the stability of adjoining buildings, walls, or other structures is endangered by excavation operations, support systems such as shoring, bracing, or underpinning shall be provided to ensure the stability of such structures for the protection of employees.
Sidewalks, pavements and appurtenant structure shall not be undermined unless a support system or another method of protection is provided to protect employees from the possible collapse of such structures.
Employees shall be protected from excavated or other materials or equipment that could pose a hazard by falling or rolling into excavations. Protection shall be provided by placing and keeping such materials or equipment at least 2 feet (.61 m) from the edge of excavations.
Daily inspections of excavations, the adjacent areas, and protective systems shall be made by a competent person.
Under the new regulation, a trench is defined as a subsurface excavation greater than 3’ in depth, and is 15 feet or less between soil walls as measured from the bottom.
All regulated trenches must be attended, covered, barricaded, or backfilled. Covers must be road plates at least ¾” thick or equivalent, barricades must be fences at least 6’ high with no openings greater than 4” between vertical supports and all horizontal supports required to be located on the trench-side of the fencing.
This applies to all construction-related trenches on public ways, public property, or private property.
All excavators must obtain a trench permit for each trench site. The new trench permit will require information such as the name of excavator, the location of trench, a certificate of insurance, and the Dig Safe number.
Permitting authorities are not required to conduct inspections of trenches for which they have issued permits. However, a permitting authority notified of a potential violation is authorized to take action, including an immediate shutdown, if violations of the new regulation are identified.
Excavators may also be subject to administrative fines issued by the Department of Public Safety for violations.
This new regulation in no way modifies or supersedes existing trench worker safety regulations. Workers in trenches must comply with the existing OSHA Excavation Standard, 29 CFR 1926, Subpart P. This public safety regulation is entirely separate from and has no relationship to the existing trench worker safety standard.