Incident Prevention Magazine

Jarred O'Dell, CSP, CUSP, is the safety director for Syracuse Utilities and an instructor at Rochester Institute of Technology’s OSHA Education Center. O’Dell has gained 12 years of experience in the construction and utility industries since serving in the U.S. Army. He can be reached at [email protected].

Jarred O'Dell, CSP, CUSP

Tricks of the Trade to Improve the Trenching Environment

Tricks of the Trade to Improve the Trenching Environment

This is the final installment in a four-part series on trenching and excavation. “Trenching by the Numbers” (http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/trenching-by-the-numbers), the first article in the series, presented a simple method for recalling OSHA’s trenching and excavation requirements. The second article focused on soil mechanics (http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/soil-mechanics-in-the-excavation-environment), taking an in-depth look at the behavior and characteristics of different soil types and their relationships with water and air. In the June 2016 issue of Incident Prevention, I covered “Protective Systems for Trenching and Excavations” (http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/protective-systems-for-trenching-and-excavations). To close out the series, I will present techniques for creating a safer, more productive trenching environment, and then provide some food for thought about how to sell these techniques to management.

Dewatering Using Well Points
It’s no secret that water can greatly contribute to the success or failure of any trenching and excavation activity. OSHA requires that employers take steps to keep workers from being exposed to standing water conditions. One of the more proactive approaches to dewatering a site is to install well points. A hole is augured into the ground, and a perforated pipe is inserted into it. Then, a submersible pump is placed inside the pipe. This technique can be especially effective in sandy soils.

However, there are two caveats to keep in mind with this technique. First, it works best when performed three to five days before excavating begins. This is because water is self-leveling; thus, when a void is created by the pump, the water in nearby soil leeches into the work area. If excavation activity takes place too soon after the well point is installed, one could misguidedly conclude that well points make conditions worse when, in reality, poor planning and a misunderstanding of the process are to blame.

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Jarred O'Dell, CSP, CUSP

Protective Systems for Trenching and Excavations

Protective Systems for Trenching and Excavations

This is the third installment of a four-part series on trenching principles. “Trenching by the Numbers” (http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/trenching-by-the-numbers), the first article in the series, presented a simple method for recalling OSHA’s trenching and excavation requirements. The second article focused on soil mechanics (http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/soil-mechanics-in-the-excavation-environment), taking an in-depth look at the behavior and characteristics of different soil types and their relationships with water and air. In this article, we will discuss the four different protective systems described in OSHA 29 CFR 1926 Subpart P, “Excavations”: engineered design, timber shoring, shield systems, and sloping and benching. Each system has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Thus, depending on the environment and the circumstances of the work to be done, one system may be a better fit than the others. Let’s take a closer look at all four systems.

Engineered Design
Engineer-designed protective systems typically are not used in utility operations. Instead, this type of system is more likely to be seen on large-scale building foundation work, and it may also be used on complex construction projects, such as around waterways. In any case, some activities – like those that involve deep, poured-in-place vaults or occasions when a duct bank has to pass beneath water and sewer – may benefit from an engineer-designed system customized for the situation. The need for engineered design may be rare, but knowing what it is and why it is used is necessary information for project and safety planners.

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Jarred O'Dell, CSP, CUSP

Soil Mechanics in the Excavation Environment

Soil Mechanics in the Excavation Environment

The February 2016 issue of Incident Prevention featured “Trenching by the Numbers” (see http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/trenching-by-the-numbers), the first installment in this series on advanced trenching and shoring principles. In that article, I reviewed the OSHA excavations standard found at 29 CFR 1926 Subpart P. The purpose of reviewing the rules was to give readers a starting point upon which to build more advanced concepts. In this article, I will continue the series with an in-depth discussion about the principles of soil mechanics.

Throughout the years I have worked in the utility industry, I have observed a systemic deficiency when it comes to training and educating the workforce about soil mechanics. This deficiency impacts nearly everyone, from employees in the field to civil engineers who design the work to be done. In practice, what I tend to see is training that begins with teaching enforceable standards and concludes with an overview of some methods for classifying soils. This is problematic because employers may end up with employees who merely understand how to classify soil in order to comply with a standard, instead of having comprehensive knowledge about how to harness the naturally occurring characteristics of soil to keep workers safe and make jobs run more smoothly.

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Jarred O'Dell, CSP, CUSP

Trenching by the Numbers

Trenching by the Numbers

By and large, organizations directly provide the training and other resources needed for the development of their foremen and crew chiefs. Such training tends to be built around two components: following the standards set forth by OSHA and other regulatory agencies, and adhering to organizational policies and procedures.

This is a great approach but perhaps an incomplete one. Truly impactful safety training typically includes a third component: sharing of personal experience. For instance, I once observed a training session in which the instructor drew from his experiences during a discussion about how to troubleshoot problems that can likely be anticipated in the field. Often, this type of training is held in higher regard by trainees than that which simply outlines a standard. Furthermore, workers are more likely to become active participants in training sessions that highlight proven, real-world work practices that they can use to more safely and efficiently execute their tasks.

With this in mind, I began crafting a series of four articles that focus on trenching and excavation techniques and practices. My goal is to present advanced material – injected with my own on-the-job experiences as a safety director and instructor – to the seasoned foremen and crew chiefs who already have some practice working in and around trenching environments.

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Jarred O'Dell, CSP, CUSP

N95 Filtering Face Pieces: Where Does Your Organization Stand?

N95 Filtering Face Pieces: Where Does Your Organization Stand?

When it comes to following health and safety standards, nearly every worker tries to do the right thing. And when workers deviate from standards and best practices, it is typically due to lack of knowledge and proper training. One industry topic that is not yet fully understood and continues to be heavily debated is the N95 filtering face piece, in particular its uses and program requirements. In response, this article seeks to assist those who are involved with the development and enforcement of their organization’s voluntary respiratory protection policy.

To begin, there are two reasons why N95 face pieces are especially relevant to readers right now.

First, OSHA is currently in the process of revising the standard on crystalline silica dust, which is a common utility and construction industry hazard that is oftentimes mitigated by N95 face pieces. OSHA’s fact sheet on crystalline silica (see www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/crystalline-factsheet.pdf) describes the substance as “a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals” that workers may encounter when sandblasting, jackhammering, drilling rock or working with concrete. Clearly, many utility industry workers are exposed to most of these activities – if not all of them – on a recurring basis.

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