Guide Superior Masonry Builders, Inc.; 96-1043; 96-1043

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Although the number of excavation-related fatalities per year remained fairly level during the period, as shown in Exhibit , these data do not reflect the increase in annual construction activity that occurred during the same period. To gauge fatalities relative to the level of construction, the study divided each year's number of fatalities by the value of construction put in place for the same year 16 , thereby yielding a fatality rate. The fatality rate did decline over the period, as shown in Exhibit In other words, although the annual number of fatalities remained fairly constant, the fatality rate decreased due to an increase in construction activity.

The data show that excavation fatalities occur in numerous industries but are primarily concentrated in a relatively few. Twelve industries, all of which fall within the construction sector, account for approximately 89 percent of excavation-related fatalities. These industries include the following SIC codes listed in order of the greatest to the least total number of fatalities over the year period 17 :. Exhibit shows the distribution of fatalities across these 12 industries as well as the "other" remaining industries.

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As illustrated in the graph, SIC Water, Sewer, Pipeline, Communications, and Power Line reports the highest number of excavation-related fatalities, at more than twice that of the industry with the second highest total fatalities SIC , Excavation Work. SIC conducts a substantial amount of trenching activity. The ranking of these industries changes somewhat when based on the fatality rate per 1, employees working within the designated SIC code Nevertheless, as shown in Exhibit , SIC continues to stand out with the number of fatalities substantially higher than the other key industries.

As shown in Exhibit , however, the fatality rate for SIC has a decreasing trend from which is not the case for SIC and some of the other industries. Excavation fatalities may result from a variety of accident types, including cave-ins, machine accidents, falling objects, electrocution, car accidents, explosions or fires, falls, drowning, and asphyxiation due to noxious fumes. Exhibit shows the relative proportion for each cause of death for the period. As illustrated in the graph, approximately half of all excavation-related fatalities approximately 48 percent result from cave-ins. OSHA does not require employers to report an accident unless three or more employees have been hospitalized, an amputation has occurred, or a fatality has occurred.

Therefore, only limited data are available on accidents that do not involve fatalities. Consequently, this study examines compliance by looking at accidents involving fatalities Excavation accident reports and news accounts suggest, nearly universally, that compliance with existing safety standards would have prevented the accidents being described This hypothesis is largely supported by violation data contained in IMIS.

These data indicate that OSHA found violations of the Excavations Standard in approximately 80 percent of the cases of excavation-related fatalities that occurred between and While the reported data did not specify any violations for almost 20 percent of the reported fatalities, OSHA does not believe this implies full compliance with the Excavations Standard in these cases The analysis of compliance first considers the types of violations associated with fatalities.

It then reviews related information on monetary penalties associated with the violations. This study found 1, violations associated with the excavation fatalities reported during Many fatalities are associated with multiple violations. Of these 1, violations, violations approximately 50 percent are reported to have been a contributing factor to the corresponding fatal accident see Exhibit In fact, a key finding of this study is that OSHA has identified one or more compliance violations as a contributing factor in over 73 percent of the fatalities examined.

As explained above and in footnote 22, OSHA believes the true percentage is even higher. It seems reasonable to conclude, therefore, that the current standard, when met, is protective of worker safety. This does not imply, however, that the standard need not be modified, as it may be possible to revise the standard in a manner that would increase compliance.

To help evaluate the level of compliance, and the importance of compliance with individual provisions of the Excavations Standard, Exhibit summarizes and classifies each provision in the standard with respect to the number of violations associated with, and contributing to, fatalities during the period. Exhibit summarizes this information graphically. As can be seen from Exhibit , the sections of the standard that account for the most violations in the dataset include sections These requirements, which are stated in the adjacent text box, are quite fundamental: protect employees in excavation; inspect the site daily; protect employees from loose rock or soil; and provide access and egress.

In contrast, far fewer violations occurred with respect to some of the more specific provisions of the Excavations Standard, such as design of sloping and benching systems, design of support systems and shield systems, and protection from hazardous atmospheres. The fact that most violations occur with respect to the standard's basic requirements as opposed to its more specific provisions suggests that fatalities may result more from a failure to understand the risks or the failure to apply any safety systems than from a failure to install safety systems correctly.

The average monetary penalty reported by section of the standard is shown in Exhibit The amount of the initial penalty may be reduced to the amount of the "current penalty" if the violator contests the violation or the associated penalty. Note that zero dollar penalties are included in the calculation of the averages. Since , OSHA has had in place a special emphasis program on trenching and excavation.

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An inspection shall be conducted by the competent person prior to the start of work and as needed throughout the shift. Inspections shall also be made after every rainstorm or other hazard increasing occurrence.

These inspections are only required when employee exposure can be reasonably anticipated. Such protection shall consist of scaling to remove loose material; installation of protective barricades at intervals as necessary on the face to stop and contain falling material; or other means that provide equivalent protection. Protection shall be provided by placing and keeping such materials or equipment at least 2 feet.

A stairway, ladder, ramp or other safe means of egress shall be located in trench excavations that are 4 feet 1. The objective of the "lookback" cost analysis is to assess the relative increase or decrease in the cost of required safety measures for excavation since If costs have increased substantially, then impacts on small businesses are likely to have increased over the period as well.

Conversely, if safety-related costs have stayed constant or decreased in real terms, then impacts are not likely to have increased. The analysis and key findings are summarized in Section 5. Section 5. The standard requires that walls and faces of all excavations or trenches should be guarded by a shoring system, safe sloping, or equivalent means of protection such as trench shields or trench boxes. This study estimates the cost of using the four most common types of protective systems: sloping, trench boxes, aluminum shoring, and timber shoring It then compares the current cost to the corresponding cost inflation-adjusted at the time the standard became effective in Timber shoring may be more or less expensive today than previously, depending on the type and size of timbers used.

In any event, however, timber shoring is used less frequently today than a decade ago Newer types of protective systems, including the various "trenchless" technologies, slide rail systems, and modular trench boxes, are being used with increasing frequency. Although the costs of these newer systems have not been examined for this study, it is reasonable to assume that each enjoys a net cost advantage over the older methods, at least in those situations where the newer systems are used.

The study concludes, therefore, that the protective systems available in when the Excavations Standard was enacted remain available today and, in fact, cost less in in real dollars. Furthermore, the entry into the marketplace of new types of protective systems has increased available options and likely has reduced the cost of meeting the standard. This section details the cost analysis of the four most common types of protective systems: sloping, trench boxes, aluminum shoring, and timber shoring.

The analysis estimates and compares the current cost of each type of system to what the system cost when the Excavations Standard became effective in This approach implicitly assumes that firms would employ the same type of protective system today as a decade ago. In reality, as the relative costs of systems change, firms will tend to substitute the less expensive systems for the more costly ones. In addition, the analysis does not explicitly account for new technologies e.

For both of these reasons, cost impacts are likely to be overstated by this study. It is not always the case that cost is the driving factor in selecting a protective system. In some cases, site-specific or job-specific conditions may limit the available choices:. Nevertheless, these considerations are not new, so firms facing a restricted set of options today are no different than similarly situated firms in In these situations, where there is a reduced ability to select an alternative protective system, a comparison of current costs to costs is particularly appropriate.

The study analyzed the cost of digging trenches with sloped sides based on engineering cost data contained in RS Means cost guides For the years and , the study reviewed the relevant guides to identify the combined equipment and labor unit cost i.

The trenches differ in slope five different slopes, including the base case of slope [or vertical walls] and in width half are 2 feet wide and half are 4 feet wide. All of the trenches have a depth of 10 feet. The analysis then restated the costs in dollars using implicit price deflators for U. The results of the comparison, presented in Exhibit at the end of this chapter, show that the overall cost of trenching using sloping has decreased for all slopes and trench types.


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The decrease in cost per linear foot ranges from 2. The primary cost of using trench boxes consists of the cost of the trench box itself. Although there is some increase in the time required to trench using a trench box as opposed to not using any protective system, research conducted for this study indicates that the loss in productivity is not significant in most cases and, moreover, is comparable to the loss associated with using other protective systems e.

The study obtained trench box monthly rental costs for two different sizes of trench boxes 8 x 16 feet, and 10 x 20 feet for and from Means cost guides The study also considered the total cost of a trenching job using each type of trench box, assuming a production rate of 90 linear feet per day or linear feet per month As necessary, the study converted costs to dollars using implicit price deflators for GDP.

The results of the analysis show that the cost of the smaller trench box has declined by approximately 25 percent over the past decade, while the cost of the larger trench box has increased by almost 20 percent. When considered within the context of the overall trenching job, however, these changes in trench box costs prove to be almost insignificant to the cost of trenching overall.

Using either size trench box, the overall cost of trenching has declined over the past decade. The size of the decrease is over 3 percent if the small trench box is used and almost 1 percent if the large trench box is used.

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These findings are shown in Exhibit The analysis assumes a typical trenching job that uses aluminum shores involves three H-type shores, as well as one pump and associated accessories for the open length of the trench. Current costs were obtained based on vendor quotes Past regulatory studies provided information on the per shore purchase cost associated with a 9 or 9. Although there is some increase in the time required to trench using aluminum shores as opposed to not using any protective system, research conducted for this study indicates that the loss in productivity is not significant in most cases and, moreover, is comparable to the loss associated with using other protective systems e.

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This analysis, presented in Exhibit , estimates that the cost of aluminum shore equipment has declined by approximately 10 percent in real dollars since Research conducted for this study indicates that timber shoring is the most expensive method and is only used when necessary e. Disadvantages of timber shoring include cost, difficulty finding larger timbers, and risk of occupational injuries to workers handling the heavy timbers. The cost of using timber shoring as a protective system depends largely on the cost of the timber shores; other costs of digging trenches have decreased since the enactment of the Excavations Standard, as discussed above.

The study analyzed the cost of timber shoring based on engineering cost data contained in RS Means cost guides The study converted costs to dollars when necessary using implicit price deflators for GDP.

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As shown in Exhibit 4, the real price of lumber has decreased over the last decade, with the exception of the cost of large 8 x 8 timbers. The price also can vary with the type of wood available. Therefore, in many cases it may be less expensive to use timber shoring today than in , but in other cases it may currently be more expensive. OSHA to hold this solicited information. A total of 20 commenters provided information to the docket listed below in alphabetical order, with docket reference number :.

There was general agreement among commenters that the Excavations Standard, when complied with, helps prevent excavation and trenching accidents and helps protect worker safety. In support of this position, one commenter NIOSH submitted a study that found a decline in fatalities since the revision of the Excavations Standard Suruda et al. Commenters also generally agreed that there is a continued need for the standard, particularly given that excavation and trenching fatalities continue to occur. Another widely-held view was that improving compliance rates is the key to further reductions in accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

These statements are supported by the facts found in this review. Furthermore, after reviewing the facts and comments, these statements support OSHA's conclusions for this lookback review.

The annual number of trenching and excavation fatalities has declined from an estimated 90 fatalities per year prior to the enactment of the standard, to approximately 70 per year since The real cost of protective devices such as shields has dropped, excavation activity has increased, and the number of small business engaged in excavation activities has increased.

The evidence indicates that the large majority of deaths are contributed to by violations of the standard. All this evidence as well as the comments support the view that the Excavation Standard is working to protect workers and has not caused negative economic impacts on small business or generally.

These facts and comments demonstrate and it is OSHA's conclusion, that the Standard needs to be retained substantially unchanged. OSHA enforces the standard generally and through various special emphasis programs, issuing substantial numbers of citations. OSHA has provided training and outreach materials.


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  • See for example the card in App. IV available in Spanish as well as English. The public has suggested a number of changes which the commenters believe will improve the Standard. These are discussed below along with OSHA's responses. However, such suggestions, which OSHA welcomes, need to be reviewed in the context of a successful standard.

    OSHA has limited regulatory resources.