After a sharp spike in trench fatalities in 2003, construction industry groups took notice and began work on training materials to address the problem. Now, three new, informative training programs on trenching and excavation procedures are available for free in DVD, CD-ROM or internet download format.

“Trench collapses are a continuing threat to Laborers,” says LHSFNA Senior Safety and Health Specialist Travis Parsons. “It is vital that members and contractors who work in excavation fully understand the dangers and the required procedures so they can ensure safety on these fast-changing worksites. These new training materials can help.”

Many Laborers already have training in trench and excavation safety, provided through one of the many local Laborers training centers as part of the pipe laying program. Developed by the Laborers-AGC Education and Training Fund, the pipe laying program includes a 12-hour module, Trench and Excavation Safety, that focuses on standards for building protective systems in trenches and excavations and discusses how to install different kinds of protective systems.

“Trench safety is an important part of our Pipe Laying program,” says Laborers-AGC Executive Director John LeConche. “These three new videos, combined with our 12 pipe laying modules, can provide trainees with additional safety information to supplement the materials within the training program.”

The new video programs are offered by the National Utility Contractors Association (a trade association whose members work regularly with trenches), the Construction Institute (a New England regional labor-management organization with which LIUNA participates) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

All three programs fully cover the main topics of evacuation and trench safety, such as, types of trench collapses and protective systems, soil classifications and other safety and health considerations. All are well organized with interactive menus and good presentations. The differences are few and generally subtle. Potential users should download and review all three (click on title to go to download page) to see which will best serve their needs.

Excavation Safety Orientation – National Utility Contractors Association

This program, funded by a Susan Harwood training grant from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), offers both student and trainer versions, both of which are very direct and straightforward. Lesson plans and testing for general topics are included. Graphics are adequate with video of job sites and potential hazards.

Overall, this program is efficient, to the point and gets the job done.

Excavation and Trenching – The Construction Institute (formerly the Labor Management Construction Safety Alliance)

This is a very creative program with a hands-on approach to learning. It has an excellent narrative with a safety officer guiding you through each segment. It also includes real life stories which make a connection with the Laborer. It includes tests. Among the organizations contributing to this program, also funded by OSHA, was the New England Laborers Training Trust Fund.

Overall, this program is well-rounded, has a strong human touch and has a thorough coverage of all topics.

Trench Safety Awareness Training– National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

This program, designed by NIOSH’s Spokane Research Laboratory, offers an e-learning format, which consists of photographs, video clips and text summary. It is very accessible and user friendly with good graphics. The sound effects and video clips are interesting. Also, it has topic reviews and summaries.

Overall, this program is easy to navigate with complete, effective coverage.

Training Just the Start

“Providing a good information base for Laborers, trainers and contractors – technically efficient and user-friendly – is only half the battle,” says Parsons. “Knowledge is only as good as its application. Training, reinforcement, follow-up and supervision are critical to the elimination of trench hazards, injuries and fatalities.”