Employers in Pennsylvania, especially those in construction, should know that OSHA has kicked off one of its National Emphasis Program, this time on trenching and excavation safety. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 130 fatalities in trenching and excavation operations between 2011 and 2016. Eighty percent occurred in the private construction industry.

Even more importantly, nearly half of these fatalities arose between 2015 and 2016, revealing an upward trend. It is largely in response to these figures that OSHA initiated its NEP. Starting October 1, 2018, OSHA’s area and regional offices are providing outreach to employers who need help complying with current safety guidelines. These regulations are outlined in a Trenching and Excavation Quick Card.

After this three-month period, OSHA will have its compliance officers conduct inspections on all work sites where there are open trenches or open excavation regardless of whether the sites clearly violate safety guidelines. However, no inspection will be made if it interferes with other, more important inspections.

These “drive-by inspections” are generating concerns among legal experts, who say that certain court decisions require OSHA to secure an administrative warrant before carrying out an inspection. The warrant can be obtained in response to a complaint from someone at the work site or for a site selected on the basis of a neutral source’s general administrative plan.

Employers will want to ensure their employees’ safety as doing so will at least reduce the risk of accidents and personal injury claims. If employees are injured through their own fault, they could still file for workers’ compensation benefits, which may cover medical bills, short- or long-term disability leave and a portion of their lost wages. Workers’ comp claims can still be denied, so victims will want a lawyer by their side to ensure a smooth filing and a strong appeal.