Specifying Trench Safety: the Texas Experience

by James T. O'Connor, Univ of Texas, Austin, United States,
Robert C. Davis, Univ of Texas, Austin, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Preparing for Construction in the 21st Century


The frequency of accidents during trenching operations has grown so dramatically that the issue has caught the attention of both industry 'insiders' and 'outsiders.' OSHA officials estimate that more than 100 people die each year from cave-ins and other excavation accidents, and nearly 7000 are injured [Bradford 1987]. The State of Texas led the nation in construction fatalities between 1980 and 1986. During this time period, the number of deaths per year in Texas was nearly six times the national average [Mitchell 1988]. In 1987, one Texas construction company was fined $20,000 after pleading no contest to a charge of criminally negligent homicide in connection with a 1985 trench cave-in that left one worker dead. This was the first time in Texas that a corporation or corporate president had been found criminally responsible for a death of an employee and a job-related fatality. Since then, changes in state law have raised the minimum penalty for negligent homicide from $10,000 to $50,000.

Subject Headings: Trenches | Safety | Labor | Occupational safety | Industries | Construction management | Construction companies | Excavation | Texas | United States

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