Earlier this week, no further than 30 miles from where I am writing this article, an excavation company working on a utility construction project had a trench collapse on two of their workers with one of those crew members losing their life.

In 2015, there were 4,836 workers who lost their lives to on-the-job incidents and work-related illnesses according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). On an average, that equates to 93 per week or roughly 13 deaths per day. The construction industry accounted for 937 of those deaths.

Construction is full of dangers. Team members within the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) industry not only have to locate and spot live utilities, but also operate heavy equipment, watch out for traffic in the right-of-way, work inside trenches and understand ignition sources, as well as a number of other obstacles, all while wearing personal protection equipment (PPE).

Pipeline companies follow an Operator Qualification program, while some excavators, utility companies and municipalities are adopting the Gold Shovel Standard program, which was first established by PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric). Still, a lot of smaller contractors operate without proper safety education, bore procedures or first aid training. I pass crews nearly every day that are not even OSHA compliant on their jobsites.

The Great Lakes Trenchless Association (GLTA) is a multi-state organization for trenchless contractors, utility & telecommunications companies, engineering firms, and industry manufacturers and vendors. One of the big projects that the GLTA is beginning to work on is coming up with uniform industry best practices, and bore, trenching and shoring procedures. We are hoping to partner with a multitude of industry professionals and industry experts, as well as compliance and safety professionals, so that we can come up with industry best practices to educate and train individuals on the proper way to run a jobsite.

We believe that this is paramount as our underground utility infrastructure becomes more congested and new contractors enter the industry. We believe that people are our number-one responsibility, and fostering a culture of proficiency and safety is vastly important to the future of our industry. Our goal is that every team member who walks onto a jobsite is given adequate training, education and standards. Together, we can equip both new and veteran contractors for safety and success.

If your company, your team or you personally want to be involved in this process, the Great Lakes Trenchless Association would be honored for you to serve the industry. If you would like more information on the GLTA or our Training, Education, and Standards Committee, contact Megan Miller at mmiller@assnsoffice.com or 888-294-0084.

Also, check out our webpage, our mobile safety application or any of our other programs at www.greatlakestrenchless.com.