Trenching & Excavation Safety

Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations. OSHA defines an excavation as any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the earth’s surface formed by earth removal. A trench is defined as a narrow underground excavation that is deeper than it is wide, and is no wider than 15 feet (4.5 meters).

Dangers of Trenching and Excavation
Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are much more likely than other excavation related accidents to result in worker fatalities. Other potential hazards include falls, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and incidents involving mobile equipment. Trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year.

Protect Yourself
Do not enter an unprotected trench! Trenches 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep or greater require a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock. Trenches 20 feet (6.1 meters) deep or greater require that the protective system be de-signed by a registered professional engineer or be based on tabulated data prepared and/ or approved by a registered professional engineer.

Protective Systems
There are different types of protective systems. Sloping involves cutting back the trench wall at an angle inclined away from the excavation. Shoring requires installing aluminum hydraulic or other types of supports to prevent soil movement and cave-ins. Shielding protects workers by using trench boxes or other types of supports to prevent soil cave-ins. Designing a protective system can be complex because you must consider many factors: soil classification, depth of cut, water content of soil, changes due to weather or climate, surcharge loads (eg., spoil, other materials to be used in the trench) and other operations in the vicinity.

Competent Person
OSHA standards require that trenches be inspected daily and as conditions change, by a competent person prior to worker entry to ensure elimination of excavation hazards. A competent person is an individual who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards or working conditions that are hazardous, unsanitary, or dangerous to employees and who is authorized to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate or control these hazards and conditions.

Access and Egress
OSHA requires safe access and egress to all excavations, including ladders, steps, ramps, or other safe means of exit for employees working in trench excavations 4 feet (1.22 meters) or deeper. These devices must be located within 25 feet (7.6 meters) of all workers.

General Trenching and Excavation Rules
  • Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges.
  • Keep surcharge loads at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) from trench edges.
  • Know where underground utilities are located.
  • Test for low oxygen, hazardous fumes and toxic gases.
  • Inspect trenches at the start of each shift.
  • Inspect trenches following a rainstorm.
  • Do not work under raised loads.
National Safety Compliance has developed a training program for trenching and excavation operations in construction. For more information, please visit this link: Excavation & Trenching Safety Training

Fall Protection & Training

Falls and falling objects can result from unstable working surfaces, ladders that are not safely positioned, and misuse of fall protection. Workers are also subject to falls or to the dangers of falling objects if sides and edges, floor holes, and wall openings are not protected. Any time a worker is at a height of six feet or more (construction industry) or four feet or more (general industry), the worker must be protected.

Fall Protection

Fall protection must be provided for each employee
on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge at the height required by the OSHA standard applicable to their work environment.

Management is required to:

• Develop, implement and commit to a fall protection
• Provide training on the fall protection program

• Evaluate the program on a regular basis to
insure the program’s effectiveness and determine whether it needs to be changed or updated

Employers are required to assess the workplace
to determine if the walking/working surfaces on which employees are to work have the strength and structural integrity to safely support workers. Once employers have determined that the surface is safe for employees to work on, the employer must select one of the options listed for the work operation if a fall hazard is present.
• Where protection is required, select fall protection
systems appropriate for given situations.
• Use proper construction and installation of safety
• Supervise employees properly.

• Train workers in the proper selection, use, and
maintenance of fall protection systems.

Unprotected Sides, Wall Openings,
and Floor Holes
Almost all sites have unprotected sides and
edges, wall openings, or floor holes at some point during construction. If these sides and openings are not protected at your site, injuries from falls or falling objects may result, ranging from sprains and concussions to death.
• Use at least one of the following whenever
employees are exposed to a fall of 6 feet or more [see comment above] above a lower level:
• Guardrail Systems

• Safety Net Systems

• Fall Arrest Systems

• Cover or guard floor holes as soon as they are
• Guard or cover any openings or holes immediately.

• Construct all floor hole covers so they will effectively
support two times the weight of employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.
• In general, it is better to use fall prevention systems,
such as guardrails, than fall protection systems, such as safety nets or fall arrest devices.


You risk falling if portable ladders are not safely
positioned each time they are used. While you are on a ladder, it may move and slip from its supports. You can also lose your balance while getting on or off an unsteady ladder. Falls from ladders can cause injuries ranging from sprains to death.
• Position portable ladders so the side rails extend
at least 3 feet above the landing
• Secure side rails at the top to a rigid support
and use a grab device when 3 foot extension is not possible.
• Make sure that the weight on the ladder will not
cause it to slip off its support.
• Before each use, inspect ladders for cracked,
broken, or defective parts.
• Do not apply more weight on the ladder than it
is designed to support.
• Use only ladders that comply with OSHA standards.

OSHA Help for New Businesses

How can OSHA help new businesses?

Starting a new business can be challenging. OSHA can help by explaining the federal regulatory requirements concerning safety and health and help you create a safe and healthful workplace for your employees that conforms to federal law. States with OSHA-approved state plans have adopted standards equivalent to OSHA's.

What are your responsibilities as an employer?

Under the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 ( OSH Act), as the employer, you must provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to your employees regardless of the size of your business. You must comply with OSHA standards and regulations under the OSH Act. You must also be familiar with those OSHA standards and regulations that apply to your workplace and make copies of them available to employees upon request.

Are employers required to maintain records of injuries and illnesses?

Yes. Most businesses with 11 or more employees at any time during the calendar year must maintain records of occupational injuries and illnesses as they occur using OSHA Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. Such recordkeeping is not required for employers in most retail trade, finance, insurance, real estate, and service industries.

Must employers display OSHA safety and health information in the workplace?

Yes. You must display OSHA's Safe and Healthful Workplaces poster (OSHA 3165 or the state equivalent) in a conspicuous location in your workplace where workers and prospective employees can see it. This publication informs employees of their rights and responsibilities under the OSH Act.

Are employers required to communicate information about hazardous chemicals in the workplace to their employees?

Yes. Employers must inform their workers about the dangers of chemical hazards in their workplaces and train their employees regarding proper safeguards. This includes providing information on the hazards and identities of chemicals employees may be exposed to on the job and describing protective measures to prevent adverse effects. Chemical producers and importers must evaluate their products for chemical hazards and provide hazard information to customers.

Is your business subject to inspection?

All businesses covered by the OSH Act must comply with federal workplace safety and health standards, or comparable state standards, if the workplace is under the jurisdiction of a state agency administering an OSHA-approved safety and health plan. Every establishment covered by the OSH Act is subject to inspection by federal or state compliance safety and health officers who are chosen for their knowledge and experience in the occupational safety and health field. OSHA conducts workplace inspections of businesses in federal jurisdictions, and OSHA-approved state plans are responsible for conducting workplace inspections of businesses under state jurisdiction to enforce their own standards that are "at least as effective" as federal requirements.

What services are available from OSHA to help you?

OSHA's Area Office staffs provide advice, education, and assistance to business (particularly small employers), trade associations, local labor affiliates, and other stakeholders who request help with occupational safety and health issues. They work with professional organizations, unions, and community groups concerning issues of safety and health in the workplace. In addition, OSHA offers the following services:

  • Consultation - Employers who want on-site assistance in identifying and correcting hazards and in improving safety and health programs can get help from a free and confidential consultation service largely funded by OSHA and delivered by state consultation staffs.

  • Instruction - Training courses in safety and health subjects are available to the private sector through the OSHA Training Institute in Des Plaines, IL, and at 12 education centers throughout the nation. For locations, visit OSHA's Office of Training and Education online at

  • Publications - Various publications are on-line at to help small businesses comply with OSHA requirements.

  • Partnership - In a partnership, OSHA enters into an extended, voluntary, cooperative relationship with groups of employers, employees, and employee representatives to encourage, assist, and recognize their efforts to eliminate serious hazards and achieve a high level of worker safety and health.

  • Other Resources - National Safety Compliance has developed OSHA compliance and safety training resources for all aspects of OSHA compliance. These materials are available for purchase by any employers who needs to comply with OSHA requirements.

OSHA's Lockout / Tagout Rules

What is the OSHA standard for control of hazardous energy sources?
The OSHA standard for The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910.147, addresses the practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment, thereby preventing the release of hazardous energy while employees perform servicing and maintenance activities. The standard outlines measures for controlling hazardous energies—electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, and other energy sources. In addition, 29 CFR 1910.333 sets forth requirements to protect employees working on electric circuits and equipment. This section requires workers to use safe work practices, including lockout and tagging procedures. These provisions apply when employees are exposed to electrical hazards while working on, near, or with conductors or systems that use electric energy.

Why is controlling hazardous energy sources important?

Employees servicing or maintaining machines or equipment may be exposed to serious physical harm or death if hazardous energy is not properly controlled. Craft workers, machine operators, and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment and face the greatest risk. Compliance with the lockout/tagout standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.

How can you protect workers?

The lockout/tagout standard establishes the employer’s responsibility to protect employees from hazardous energy sources on machines and equipment during service and maintenance. The standard gives each employer the flexibility to develop an energy control program suited to the needs of the particular workplace and the types of machines and equipment being maintained or serviced. This is generally done by affixing the appropriate lockout or tagout devices to energy-isolating devices and by deenergizing machines and equipment. The standard outlines the steps required to do this.

What do employees need to know?

Employees need to be trained to ensure that they know, understand, and follow the applicable provisions of the hazardous energy control procedures. The training must cover at least three areas: aspects of the employer’s energy control program; elements of the energy control procedure relevant to the employee’s duties or assignment; and the various requirements of the OSHA standards related to lockout/tagout.

What must employers do to protect employees?

The standards establish requirements that employers must follow when employees are exposed to hazardous energy while servicing and maintaining equipment and machinery. Some of the most critical requirements from these standards are outlined below:

Develop, implement, and enforce an energy control program.

Use lockout devices for equipment that can be locked out. Tagout devices may be used in lieu of lockout devices only if the tagout program provides employee protection equivalent to that provided through a lockout program.

Ensure that new or overhauled equipment is capable of being locked out.

Develop, implement, and enforce an effective tagout program if machines or equipment are not capable of being locked out.

Develop, document, implement, and enforce energy control procedures. [See the note to 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(4)(i) for an exception to the documentation requirements.]

Use only lockout/tagout devices authorized for the particular equipment or machinery and ensure that they are durable, standardized, and substantial.

Ensure that lockout/tagout devices identify the individual users.

Establish a policy that permits only the employee who applied a lockout/tagout device to remove it. [See 29 CFR 1910.147(e)(3) for exception.]

Inspect energy control procedures at least annually.

Provide effective lockout/tagout training as mandated for all employees covered by the standard.

Comply with the additional energy control provisions in OSHA standards when machines or equipment must be tested or repositioned, when outside contractors work at the site, in group lockout situations, and during shift or personnel changes.

OSHA Inspections

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is committed to strong, fair and effective enforcement of safety and health requirements in the workplace. OSHA inspectors, called compliance safety and health officers, are experienced, well-trained industrial hygienists and safety professionals whose goal is to assure compliance with OSHA requirements and help employers and workers reduce on-the-job hazards and prevent injuries, illnesses and deaths in the workplace. Normally, OSHA conducts inspections without advance notice. Employers have the right to require compliance officers to obtain an inspection warrant before entering the worksite.

Inspection Priorities

OSHA cannot inspect all 7 million workplaces it
covers each year. The agency seeks to focus its inspection resources on the most hazardous workplaces in the following order of priority:
1. Imminent danger situations—hazards that
could cause death or serious physical harm— receive top priority. Compliance officers will ask employers to correct these hazards immediately— or remove endangered employees.
2. Fatalities and catastrophes—incidents that
involve a death or the hospitalization of three or more employees—come next. Employers must report such catastrophes to OSHA within 8 hours.
3. Complaints—allegations of hazards or violations
also receive a high priority. Employees may request anonymity when they file complaints.
4. Referrals of hazard information from other
federal, state or local agencies, individuals, organizations or the media receive consideration for inspection.
5. Follow-ups—checks for abatement of violations
cited during previous inspections—are also conducted by the agency in certain circumstances.
6. Planned or programmed investigations—
inspections aimed at specific high-hazard industries or individual workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries and illnesses— also receive priority.

Phone/Fax Investigations

OSHA carefully prioritizes all complaints it
receives based on their severity. For lower-priority hazards, with permission of a complainant, OSHA may telephone the employer to describe safety and health concerns, following up with a fax providing details on alleged safety and health hazards. The employer must respond in writing within five working days, identifying any problems found and noting corrective actions taken or planned. If the response is adequate and the complainant satisfied with the response, OSHA generally will not conduct an on-site inspection.

Onsite Inspections

Preparation—Before conducting an inspection,
OSHA compliance officers research the inspection history of a worksite using various data sources, review the operations and processes in use and the standards most likely to apply. They gather appropriate personal protective equipment and testing instruments to measure potential hazards. Presentation of credentials—The onsite inspection begins with the presentation of the compliance officer’s credentials, which include both a photograph and a serial number.
Opening Conference
—The compliance officer will
explain why OSHA selected the workplace for inspection and describe the scope of the inspection, walkaround procedures, employee representation and employee interviews. The employer then selects a representative to accompany the compliance officer during the inspection. An authorized representative of the employees, if any, also has the right to go along. In any case, the compliance officer will consult privately with a reasonable number of employees during the inspection.
—Following the opening conference,
the compliance officer and the representatives will walk through the portions of the workplace covered by the inspection, inspecting for hazards that could lead to employee injury or illness. The compliance officer will also review worksite injury and illness records and posting of the official OSHA poster. During the walkaround, compliance officers may point out some apparent violations that can be corrected immediately. While the law requires that these hazards must still be cited, prompt correction is a sign of good faith on the part of the employer. Compliance officers try to minimize work interruptions during the inspection and will keep confidential any trade secrets they observe.
Closing Conference
—After the walk-around, the
compliance officer holds a closing conference
with the employer and the employee representatives to discuss the findings. The compliance officer discusses possible courses of action an employer may take following an inspection, which could include an informal conference with OSHA or contesting citations and proposed penalties. The compliance officer also discusses consultation and employee rights.


OSHA must issue a citation and proposed penalty
within six months of the violation’s occurrence. Citations describe OSHA requirements allegedly violated, list any proposed penalties and give a deadline for correcting the alleged hazards. Violations are categorized as other-than-serious, serious, willful, repeated and failure to abate. Penalties may range up to $7,000 for each serious violation and up to $70,000 for each willful or repeated violation. Penalties may be reduced based on an employer’s good faith, inspection history, and size of business. For serious violations, OSHA may also reduce the proposed penalty based on the gravity of the alleged violation. No good faith adjustment will be made for alleged willful violations.


When OSHA issues a citation to an employer, it
also offers the employer an opportunity for an informal conference with the OSHA Area Director to discuss citations, penalties, abatement dates or any other information pertinent to the inspection. The agency and the employer may work out a
settlement agreement to resolve the matter and to eliminate the hazard. OSHA’s primary goal is correcting hazards and maintaining compliance rather than issuing citations or collecting penalties.

Alternatively, employers have 15 working days after
receipt of citations and proposed penalties to formally contest the alleged violations and/or penalties by sending a written notice to the Area Director. OSHA forwards the contest to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission for independent review. Alternatively, citations, penalties and abatement dates that are not challenged by the employer or settled become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

National Safety Compliance has developed a free training program to help employers learn more about OSHA. Please follow this link for more information:
Free Introduction to OSHA Training DVD and Workbook

The Basics of Job Safety & Health from OSHA

Job Safety and Health

Why should everyone be concerned about job safety and health?

Each year, approximately 6,000 employees in this country die from workplace injuries while another 50,000 die from illnesses caused by exposure to workplace hazards. In addition, 6 million workers suffer non-fatal workplace injuries at an annual cost to U.S. businesses of more than $125 billion.

Effective job safety and health add value to the workplace and help reduce worker injuries and illnesses.

How does OSHA contribute to job safety and health?

Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, (OSH Act), "to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources." Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Parts 1902- 1990, contains OSHA regulations and standards.

Some states have enacted occupational safety and health laws and operate federally approved state plans. Such states adopt and enforce state standards and regulations that are at least as effective as those enacted under federal law.

Are all employees covered by the OSH Act?

The OSH Act covers all employees except workers who are self-employed and public employees in state and local governments.

In states with OSHA-approved state plans, public employees in state and local governments are covered by their state's OSHA-approved plan. Federal employees are covered under the OSH Act's federal employee occupational safety and health programs, see 29 CFR Part 1960. United States Postal Service employees, however, are subject to the same OSH Act coverage provisions as are private sector employers.

The OSH Act does not apply to particular working conditions addressed by regulations or standards affecting occupational safety or health that are issued by federal agencies, other than OSHA, or by a state atomic energy agency. Other federal agencies that have issued requirements affecting job safety or health include the Mine Safety and Health Administration and some agencies of the Department of Transportation.

What are your responsibilities as an employer?

If you are an employer covered by the OSH Act, you must provide your employees with jobs and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm. Among other actions, you must also comply with the OSHA statutory requirements, standards, and regulations that, in part, require you to do the following:

  • Provide well-maintained tools and equipment, including appropriate personal protective equipment;
  • Provide medical examinations;
  • Provide training required by OSHA standards;
  • Report to OSHA within 8 hours accidents that result in fatalities;
  • Report to OSHA within 8 hours accidents that result in the hospitalization of three or more employees;
  • Keep records of work-related accidents, injuries, illnesses.and their causes.and post annual summaries for the required period of time. A number of specific industries in the retail, service, finance, insurance, and real estate sectors that are classified as low-hazard are exempt from most requirements of the regulation, as are small businesses with 10 or fewer employees (see 29 CFR Part 1904);
  • Post prominently the OSHA poster (OSHA 3165) informing employees of their rights and responsibilities;
  • Provide employees access to their medical and exposure records;
  • Do not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the OSH Act;
  • Post OSHA citations and abatement verification notices at or near the worksite;
  • Abate cited violations within the prescribed period; and
  • Respond to survey requests for data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, OSHA, or a designee of either agency.

What are your rights as an employer?

When working with OSHA, you may do the following:

  • Request identification from OSHA compliance officers;
  • Request an inspection warrant;
  • Be advised by compliance officers of the reason for an inspection;
  • Have an opening and closing conference with compliance officers;
  • Accompany compliance officers on inspections;
  • Request an informal conference after an inspection;
  • File a Notice of Contest to citations, proposed penalties, or both;
  • Apply for a variance from a standard's requirements under certain circumstances;
  • Be assured of the confidentiality of trade secrets; and
  • Submit a written request to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for information on potentially toxic substances in your workplace.

What are your responsibilities as an employee?

To help prevent exposure to workplace safety and health hazards, you must comply with all OSHA requirements that apply to your actions and conduct.

What are your rights as an employee?

In your associations with OSHA and your employer, you have the right, among other actions, to do the following:

  • Review employer-provided OSHA standards, regulations and requirements;
  • Request information from your employer on emergency procedures;
  • Receive adequate safety and health training when required by OSHA standards related to toxic substances and any such procedures set forth in any emergency action plan required by an OSHA standard;
  • Ask the OSHA Area Director to investigate hazardous conditions or violations of standards in your workplace;
  • Have your name withheld from your employer if you file a complaint with OSHA;
  • Be advised of OSHA actions regarding your complaint, and have an informal review of any decision not to inspect or to issue a citation;
  • Have your employee representative accompany the OSHA compliance officer on inspections;
  • Observe any monitoring or measuring of toxic substances or harmful physical agents and review any related monitoring or medical records;
  • Review at a reasonable time the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA 300) if your employer is required to maintain it;
  • Request a closing discussion following an inspection;
  • Object to the abatement period set in a citation issued to your employer; and
  • Seek safe and healthful working conditions without your employer retaliating against you.

MSDs on OSHA 300 Log

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced on January 25, 2011 that it has temporarily withdrawn from review by the Office of Management and Budget its proposal to restore a column for work-related musculoskeletal disorders on employer injury and illness logs. The agency has taken this action to seek greater input from small businesses on the impact of the proposal and will do so through outreach in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy.

"Work-related musculoskeletal disorders remain the leading cause of workplace injury and illness in this country, and this proposal is an effort to assist employers and OSHA in better identifying problems in workplaces," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "However, it is clear that the proposal has raised concern among small businesses, so OSHA is facilitating an active dialogue between the agency and the small business community."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, MSDs accounted for 28 percent of all reported workplace injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work in 2009.

The proposed rule would not change existing requirements about when and under what circumstances employers must record MSDs on their injury and illness logs. While many employers are currently required to keep a record of workplace injuries and illnesses, including work-related MSDs, on the OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), the vast majority of small businesses are not required to keep such records. The proposed rule would require those employers already mandated to keep injury and illness records, and to record MSDs, to place a check mark in the new column for all MSDs.

Prior to 2001, OSHA's injury and illness logs contained a column for repetitive trauma disorders that included noise and many kinds of MSDs. In 2001, OSHA separated noise and MSDs into two columns, but the MSD column was deleted in 2003 before the provision became effective. This proposal would restore the MSD column to the Form 300.

OSHA and the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy jointly will hold a meeting to engage and listen to small businesses about the agency's proposal. Small businesses from around the country will be able to participate through electronic means, such as telephone and/or a Web forum. Details of the meeting will be announced within 30 days. OSHA also will conduct a stakeholder meeting with other members of the public if requested.

OSHA's Evaluation of State Programs

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced that it has concluded a special evaluation of state-run occupational safety and health programs under its jurisdiction. Enhanced Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation reports provide detailed findings and recommendations on the operations of state-run OSHA programs in 25 states and territories. The enhanced review was initiated after a 2009 special OSHA report on Nevada's program, prompted by numerous construction-related fatalities in Las Vegas, identified serious operational deficiencies in that state.

"Our goal is to identify problems in state-run programs before they result in serious injuries or fatalities," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "While we found many positives in the state programs, we also found deficiencies including concerns about identification of hazards, proper classification of violations, proposed penalty levels, and failure to follow up on violations to ensure that workplace safety and health problems are corrected."

The EFAME report and appendices for each of the 25 states, as well as each state's comment and fiscal year 2009 self-evaluation report, are now available on OSHA's website at

States will have 30 days to provide a formal response, including a detailed corrective action plan for addressing findings and recommendations. Each state's formal response will be public information and available online as soon as it is received.

The EFAME review also identified areas where states have adopted standards and procedures exceeding federal OSHA's requirements, such as injury and illness prevention programs in California, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota and other states; the adoption of a cranes and derricks rule prior to OSHA's in North Carolina, Washington and Maryland; and Oregon's requirement that employers abate serious workplace violations during the contest period, a legal tool under consideration in Congress but still lacking in federal OSHA.

The review of the Hawaii program highlights significant performance problems resulting from staffing and funding cutbacks. OSHA is addressing these problems directly with the governor's office and has offered to provide supplemental federal enforcement assistance until the state can address its problems. If Hawaii is unable to present a reasonable strategy for expeditiously improving its worker safety and health oversight, consideration will be given to the state's current authority to operate its own program independently and could result in a federal takeover.

"We recognize that some of the problems we identified could stem from significant budget constraints in many of the states and may also be the result of less intensive federal oversight in recent years," Michaels added. "OSHA, through its regional offices, intends to provide assistance in the implementation of corrective actions and will work closely with state officials to review progress. We are confident that by working together to address identified problems, we can improve state operations and provide more consistent protection to all of America's workers."

The 25 states and territories evaluated are Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming. No reports are being issued on the Nevada and Illinois state plans; a special study was issued on the Nevada state plan in October 2009, and the Illinois state plan was not approved until September 2009. The status of each state's efforts to improve its plans will be reflected in the fiscal year 2010 Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation report expected in 2011. For more information about those states operating their own plans, visit

When Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, it created an opportunity for federal-state partnerships to promote safety and health. Section 18 of the law allows states to develop and enforce occupational safety and health standards in the context of an OSHA-approved state plan. Twenty-seven states and territories have sought and obtained approval. Twenty-one states and Puerto Rico have complete programs covering both the private sector and state and local governments. Four states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have programs limited in coverage to public sector employees. Currently, state plans deliver the OSHA program to 40 percent of the nation's workplaces, with federal OSHA responsible for the other 60 percent.

State plan standards and enforcement must be at least as effective as federal OSHA in providing safe and healthful employment to workers. In addition, state plans operate under authority of state law, not delegated federal authority. Thus, in order to operate its own plan, a state must enact an equivalent of the federal OSH Act and must use administrative and regulatory procedures to adopt its own standards, regulations and operating procedures, all of which must be updated within six months of any change in the federal program.

OSHA's HAZWOPER Requirements

OSHA’s standards for general industry and the construction industry on hazardous waste operations and emergency response (29 CFR 1910.120 or 29 CFR 1926.65) cover all employees involved in:
• Clean-up operations of hazardous substances at
uncontrolled hazardous waste sites required by Federal, state, local or other governments;
• Corrective actions involving clean-up procedures
at sites covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA);
• Voluntary clean-up operations at sites recognized
as uncontrolled hazardous waste sites by Federal, state, local or other governments;
• Operations involving hazardous waste that are
conducted at treatment, storage and disposal facilities licensed under RCRA;
• Emergency response operations for hazardous
substance releases or substantial threats of releases.
Exceptions are permitted if the employer can demonstrate that the operation does not involve employee exposure or a reasonable possibility of such exposure to hazards. State and local government employees are covered by equivalent standards in the 26 states with OSHA-approved state plans and by the Environment Protection Agency’s hazardous waste standard in states without plans.

Hazardous Waste Operations

Each employer must have:

• A written, readily-accessible safety and health
program that identifies, evaluates and controls safety and health hazards and provides for emergency response.
• A preliminary site evaluation conducted by a
qualified person to identify potential site hazards and to aid in the selection of appropriate employee protection methods.
• A site control program to protect employees
against hazardous contamination. At a minimum it must have a site map, site work zones,site communications, safe work practices, the use of a “buddy system,” and identification of the nearest medical aid.
• Employee training for everyone working on a
hazardous waste site.
• Medical surveillance of workers exposed at
or above permissible exposure limits for hazardous substances, conducted (1) at least annually, (2) when a worker moves to a new worksite, (3) when a worker experiences exposure from unexpected or emergency releases and (4) at the end of employment.
Other requirements include controls to reduce and monitor exposure levels of hazardous materials,
an informational program describing any exposure during operations and the inspection of drums and containers prior to removal or opening. Decontamination procedures and emergency response plans (described under Emergency Response) must be in place before employees begin working in hazardous waste operations. Employers must also create safer environments by developing and implementing effective new technologies.

RCRA Sites

In addition to programs for safety and health,
training, medical surveillance, decontamination, new technology and emergency response, employers at RCRA sites also need the following:
• A written hazard communication program
meeting the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1200.
• Procedures to effectively control and handle
drums and containers.

Emergency Response

Employers must develop an emergency response
plan to handle possible on-site emergencies and coordinate off-site response. Rehearsed regularly and reviewed/amended periodically, the plan must address: personnel roles; lines of authority, training and communications; emergency recognition and prevention; site security; evacuation routes and procedures; decontamination procedures; emergency medical treatment; and emergency alerting procedures. Training is required before employees engage in hazardous waste operations and emergency response.

Training Requirements

Uncontrolled hazardous waste operations

• 40 hours of initial training; 3 days of actual field
experience for regular employees to be certified.
• 24 hours of initial training; 1 day of supervised
field experience for employees visiting the site occasionally.
• 8 hours of additional waste management training
for supervisors and managers.
• 8 hours of annual refresher training.

Treatment, storage and disposal facilities licensed
under RCRA
• 24 hours of training.

• 8 hours of annual refresher training.

Emergency response operations at sites not RCRA licensed or at uncontrolled hazardous waste site clean-ups
1) First responders at the “awareness level” (witness
or discover a hazardous substance release
and initiate the emergency response) must demonstrate competency in areas such as recognizing the presence of hazardous materials in an emergency, the risks involved and the role they play in their employer’s plan.
2) First responders at the “operations level”
(respond to prevent the spread, exposures to and the further release of hazardous materials) must have 8 hours of training plus “awareness level” competency.
3) Hazardous materials technicians (respond to
stop the release) must have 24 hours of training equal to the “operations level” and know how to implement the employer’s plan and carry out decontamination.
4) Hazardous materials specialists (require specific
knowledge of the substances to be contained) must have 24 hours of training equal to the “technical level” and act as liaison with all government
5) On-scene incident commanders (assume control
of the scene) must have 24 hours of training equal to the “operations level” and demonstrate competence in implementing the incident command system, the employer’s plan and the state and local emergency response plans.

Annual refresher training is required for each level
of response.

For more information about HAZWOPER training, please visit this link:
HAZWOPER Training Programs