In This Issue

OSHA Excavations Standard – Regulatory Flexibility Act Review

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is conducting a review of the Excavations Standard pursuant to Section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act and Section 5 of Executive Order 12866 on Regulatory Planning and Review. The purpose of this review is to determine, while protecting worker safety, whether this standard should be maintained without change, rescinded, or modified in order to minimize any significant impact of the rule on a substantial number of small entities and whether the rule should be changed to reduce regulatory burden or improve its effectiveness.

The Excavations Standard is currently found in 29 CFR, subpart P, 1926.650-1926.652 and Appendices A-F, and covers the construction industry. The purpose of the Standard is to protect employees from deaths and injuries resulting from excavation work, including deaths and injuries resulting from cave-ins. The Standard regulates the use of support systems, sloping and benching systems, and other systems of protection as means of protection against excavation cave-ins. In addition, the Standard regulates the means of access to and egress from excavations, along with employee exposure to vehicular traffic, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, water accumulation, and unstable structures in and adjacent to excavations. The Standard applies to all types of excavations, including trenches, made in the earth’s surface.

An important step in the review process involves the gathering and analysis of information from affected persons about their experience with the rule and any material changes in circumstances since issuance of the rule. This document requests written comments on the continuing need for the rule, its adequacy or inadequacy, its small business impacts, and other relevant issues.

OSHA statistics show that during the period 1990-2000, an average of approximately 70 fatalities per year occurred as a result of excavation and trenching accidents. While the annual number of fatalities has remained fairly constant over this 1990-2000 period, the fatality rate as a percentage of the real value of construction activity has declined. One factor contributing to this decline has been an increased use of new “trenchless” technologies, such as directional drilling, pipejacking, microtunnelling, auger boring, impact ramming, pipe bursting, folded pipes, and spray on linings. These technologies can result in fewer accidents by eliminating or reducing the amount of time that workers are physically exposed to the hazards of trenching. For example, some of these technologies use remote-controlled equipment to dig and lay cables, to install pipe, or to replace existing pipes.

Written comments to OSHA are welcomed, and must be sent or postmarked by November 19, 2002. You may submit comments electronically through OSHA’s Homepage at Please note that you may not attach materials such as studies or journal articles to your electronic comments. If you wish to include such materials, you must submit three copies of the material to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. S204A, Technical Data Center, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20210; telephone (202) 693-2350. When submitting such materials to the OSHA Docket Office, you must clearly identify your electronic comments by name, date, subject, and docket number so that we can attach them to your electronic comments. If your written comments are 10 pages or fewer, you may fax them to the OSHA Docket Office at (202) 693-1648. You do not have to send OSHA a hard copy of your faxed comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Joanna Dizikes Friedrich, Directorate of Policy, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Room N3641, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210, Telephone (202) 693-2400, Fax (202) 693-1641.