Before becoming involved with 811, I worked as a video producer for the Fire and Emergency Television Network.  Among the many fire fighter training programs I produced were some on trench rescue.

Sadly, almost any fire fighter will tell you that it’s hardly ever a “rescue” – it’s more than likely going to be a “recovery.”  That’s what happens when the weight of a Volkswagen beetle falls down on top of you if you’re unlucky enough to be working at the bottom of an un-shored and un-secured trench.  The weight crushes the air from your lungs, your mouth and nose fill with dirt or sand, and – well, I don’t have to go on.  I’m sure you get the picture.

That’s why South Dakota 811 is working hard with OSHA to spread the word about trench safety awareness for underground utility locators.

According to OSHA, there has been a national increase in trenching accidents and fatalities.  In the past year in South Dakota, there have been near-misses, serious accidents and two deaths.

The truly sad thing about all of this is that they are, for the most part, completely avoidable.

The National Utility Contractors Association is holding a Trench Safety Stand Down during the week of June 19 – June 24, 2017.  Check this link where you can find excavation checklists, presentations, handouts and OSHA’s toolbox talks.   There are other options on this page as well.

The Trench Safety Stand Down week coincides with Locator Safety Awareness Week.

The men and women who perform the underground utility locates across the United States work hard each and every week, so it’s only right to honor them with their own week.

Summer is one of the toughest times to be a locator in the south and southwest, though those who do the job in the north and northeast would probably say winter, instead. (more information on surviving the heat outside is here:

In any case, performing locates at all hours of the day and night is an often thankless task, but one that’s the first line of defense in protecting our nation’s underground infrastructure.

Here’s the top ten hazards faced by locators:

  • Working in confined spaces (this includes trenches)
  • Threats to the eyes
  • Climate and weather hazards
  • Dog bites
  • Punctures and injury to feet
  • Poison ivy and other skin threats
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Walking, lifting, bending and squatting
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Working in the road

Please help South Dakota 811 and OSHA protect our locators – after all, they’re busy out there protecting YOU.

Until next week, safe digging!

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