(He/Him) • YouTrainer: Excavation Safety with MMJ Services---Excavation Safety CPT, TTT, Construction Confined Space, OSHA 10/30, Field Leadership | Insurance Agent: Wendell Wood Insurance Life and Health (MI Only)Trainer: Excavation Safety with MMJ Services---Excavation Safety CPT, TTT, Construction Confined Space, OSHA 10/30, Field Leadership, Flagger Training
(He/Him) • YouTrainer: Excavation Safety with MMJ Services—Excavation Safety CPT, TTT, Construction Confined Space, OSHA 10/30, Field Leadership | Insurance Agent: Wendell Wood Insurance Life and Health (MI Only)Trainer: Excavation Safety with MMJ Services—Excavation Safety CPT, TTT, Construction Confined Space, OSHA 10/30, Field Leadership, Flagger Training

A new adventure begins!  No longer employed by a leading distributor of shoring equipment, I am now free to provide training to you through Trench Safety Training, DBA MMJ Services.

But for a moment, may I wish my many friends and colleagues the NTS Board for the extraordinary privilege to have represented NTS nearly seven years. Be assured of my continued appreciation of this time together and know my wish is that NTS will experience continued success.
The Lord gives! The Lord takes! Blessed be His name. I am truly blessed!  I would be pleased to provide ongoing training in excavation safety, both face to face and online.

As you can see…for some, trench safety is not a reality. The need for trench safety remains huge.


Wendell WoodWendell Wood (He/Him) • You (He/Him) • YouTrainer: Excavation Safety with MMJ Services—Excavation Safety CPT, TTT, Construction Confined Space, OSHA 10/30, Field Leadership | Insurance Agent: Wendell Wood Insurance Life and Health (MI Only)Trainer: Excavation Safety with MMJ Services—Excavation Safety CPT, TTT, Construction Confined Space, OSHA 10/30, Field Leadership, Flagger Training.

Greetings all…many thanks for the gracious comments received on my last post, both with regard to my new venture, updated profile, and the photo I used to suggest that excavation safety, or lack of, is still very much an issue.

MMJ Services is a vehicle I used years ago when partnering with Jack Mickle, Iowa State University, George Bradbury, Speed Shore when providing excavation safety training to compliance officers at the OSHA training facility in Chicago and other OTI locations, federal and state regulatory agencies. OSHA preferred writing a check for these services to a private firm and not to GME, a manufacturer of trench shields, and/or Speed Shore, the world’s foremost manufacturer of hydraulic shoring.

Going forward I will use it to provide as opportunity presents itself Excavation Safety Competent Person Training, Construction Confined Space training, OSHA 10/30, and to resume Excavation Safety Train the Trainer training. I am open for business in that regard. Sometimes context as well as content is necessary and essential in the presentation of the standard.

I will also add, that over the years, I have been active in working with the elderly, and others for insurance assistance…both Medicare Supplement and Advantage programs with major providers, Affordable Health Care (Biden Care), and through Susan Baker, Property and Casualty Insurance. Now that my travel is greatly reduced, I do intend to become more active in this work, largely helping folks understand their options, and on occasion placing business for them.

There are so many to whom I owe a significant debt of gratitude. There are so many who have given me a chance to be a part of their business. Mostly ever forward and upward, but admittedly, there were times also of set back and disappointment and regret.

Nonetheless, I have been blessed and richly rewarded through these opportunities to share a journey that others will carry forward. I apologize if my memory this morning proves somewhat lacking.

Due to space limitations—this is only a small part of what I have written down this morning. A host of industry leaders over 40 years, manufacturers, trainers, salespeople, association leaders have contributed to this journey. To each—Thank You.

Just for starters—Billy Padgett, Laser Products, took a chance on me and appointed me Laser Salesman for Charleston, SC. I later was successful selling trench shields and drew the attention of Jim Griswold, GME, a leading manufacturer of trench shields at that time.

If there appears to be some interest—I will post for the record the remainder of my story/list over the next several days. Perhaps!

It is, after all, a touch of arrogance to think anyone cares about the past, especially my past. But the journey to NAXSA is relevant history.

It deserves a telling.

Day 3

Last week I suggested I might comment on a topic that I think I have noted before.

That is: the background to the 5-foot rule found in Subpart P: Excavations.

That there is a 5-foot rule is sufficient I suppose.

That this rule is a compromise between opposing groups is not so clear or known. The resulting myths, however, have had tragic consequences.

Accordingly, many think this has something to do with the height of a person, an employee, or something to do with soil stability.

It one thinks that they decisions that will cause someone to lose their life or be seriously injured.

A 5 foot rule can be found in the documents of insurance companies in the early 1900s. Joe Turner, the grandfather of shoring engineers has presented this information in several publications over the years.

However, there is no specific causal relationship one can discover between the rule they used in their insurance policies and for the standards we follow today.

Rather, it appears, though the records are sealed and archived by ANSI, that the current 5 foot rule for mandatory excavation/trench safety comes from the proceedings of ANSI in the preparation of their ANSI 10 standard on Excavation and Trenching Safety published in the fall of 1958.

Labor groups sponsored a 4 foot rule for mandatory excavation and trenching safety.

Cemeteries, in association, sponsored a 6′ rule based on the data that 10,000 graves were prepared daily throughout the land without injury or death.

ANSI did what most associations would do—they accepted begrudgingly a compromise. This did not totally satisfy the cemetery people or union/labor groups. Therefore, the inference that a trench was 8 feet or longer allowed cemetery people to leave the meeting thinking the ANSI standard did not apply to them.  This idea that a trench is 8’ or longer was carried over to the 1972 Subpart P Excavation standard published that year.

To this day, cemeteries generally do not think the standard applies though I could document changes and exceptions now in place for cemeteries. But I will save that for later.

Tragically, plumbers are the ones who over the years have felt that the standard does not apply to them. Since they are not laying pipe, trenching 8 feet or longer, not moving a lot of dirt, they continue to believe that the standard is not applicable to their work. Much more to be said in this regard.

Sufficient for the moment is this: the rule does not have anything to do with how tall I am or soil stability.

This errant concept has not been good for employee safety. It has obscured the reality that a cave-in is the hazardous movement of ground that could entrap or immobilize an employee, not cover him up. I do not have to be covered up with dirt to be in violation of the standard.

That the 5-foot rule has something to do with soil stability has led to poor judgement with regard to sloping and benching and trench shield use. Slopes are figured from the toe, not the rise. This was not clearly shown in the 1972 standard as it is in Appendix B of the current standard published in 1989.

Our current standard, now 33 years old, addresses these situations but the myths surrounding the 5-foot rule persists.

There remains much yet to be done!

Day 4


Recently I posted some thoughts regarding the unintended consequences from ANSI efforts at developing a modern Excavation and Trenching Standard back in 1958.

The inference that a trench is 8 feet or longer and that mandatory shoring is not required until you are five feet or deeper caused two groups of people to assume the standard did not apply to them.

One group, the cemeteries have largely been able to dig their graves without considerations until recently. I could elaborate but will only say that in recent times the issue of grave shoring has become a matter of great interest to the associations that provide services for cemeteries, many of which are privately owned.


OSHA also has ramped up their oversight in this area in some regions. But much is yet to be accomplished. Several manufacturers have or are developing special systems that meet their needs.

Another group who continues to think that the Excavation Standard does not apply to them are plumbers. While most of their work is inside, many plumbing operations eventually have to provide excavation services to take care of their clients, be they commercial or more frequently residential.

Their work is quick, many times out of sight, yet in previously disturbed materials and can be at depths of 5-12 feet, especially in northern areas where basements and walk-outs are common.

Over the years, plumbers have become an unfortunate part of the problem in achieving zero deaths, the goal of NAXSA.

I cannot tell you how many times, after being cited, plumbers have expressed incredulity that there is a standard and it applies to them. Why?

  1. Most do not join associations where such information could be available. There are 6000 plumbers in Chicago. Only 3000 are a part of any association.
  2. Most think OSHA 10 training at a local Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) operation is all the training they need.  OSHA 10 is not excavation safety competent person training.
  3. Shoring companies do not target such small operations. I have been privileged to work with every major shoring operation in the US and this is a major failure.
  4. Their size, out of sight operation, brevity of their dig, make it hard for OSHA to focus on them. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Things are improving. Several major plumbing operations, like Roto-Router, Mr. Router, Benjamin Franklin are providing training for their factory operations but have expressed their disappointment that their franchises continue to work outside of the standard.

Cemeteries also, in their state exhibitions, are requesting NAXSA members to attend and show their wares—few are accepting the invitation.

That is unfortunate.  That is a reality.

Day 5   Reflections on change


Change is inevitable! Growth is optional!

It really does come down to perspective.

LinkedIn is a prime example.

Many folks have posted after things have come tumbling down with career change that are not by choice. Failed dreams, disappointing relationships!

But, chose not the victim’s mindset!  Chose to be! Today, a new adventure!

My industry, excavation safety, has rewarded me greatly. Yes, disappointments! But mostly great companies, great people, defining relationships and fantastic associations. A series of events start today.

Probably, all things being equal, my last BAUMA! But, as noted, times change.

Today there are new companies and new people, new opportunities to grow and appreciate the great things afforded us. The one constant here is the holy grail: zero deaths due to trench collapse. And of late a repeated question? Why are deaths rising after many years of declining numbers? I have suggest several answers in recent posts.

One is our allowance of the tragedies to be viewed as “accidents.” No so! Yes, preventable. But also, predictable and accordingly, not an accident.

Another reason stems from an interview many years ago, here at BAUMA, that Dr. Jack Mickle and I shared with the chief of Germany’s OSHA equivalent. His organization at the time 125 years old, our OSHA 35 years. The infrastructure for 85 million in a country roughly the size of the state of Georgia. Nearly zero deaths to trench collapse. How??? Extensive training of both contractor and employees before being allowed to work! Both employees and employers are charged when process and procedures are violated.

Another consideration is our respect for life itself. No one, just to get a paycheck for his labor, should be exposed to an unsafe job or environment. Do we need to look further? 80% of our issues are by companies with less than 30 employees. Companies, who are discouraged by low bid or poor finances do not join associations like NUCA, AGC, ABC, where they can stay abreast of safety issues.

Truth is they cannot afford not to join these associations. NAXSA can lead here…with training and equipment.

Then, a simple measure.  Cannot AEM and ARA, provide on every digging machine a warning. A simple note regarding the need for a protective system at five feet or deeper and maybe when less than five feet would definitely help.  Why not!

Let’s not be weary in well doing! We shall reap if we faint not! Perspective! Change! Growth! The power of choice.

Day 6

Subpart P Excavations/General Requirements/Stability of Adjacent Structures 1926.651(i)(3)

Pic: Unknown source—does the protective system (?) satisfy this provision?

Part 1 of 2


Greetings…thanks for joining us once more on this journey. It has been my purpose for many months now to comment on Subpart P Excavations in an orderly fashion as an Excavation Competent Person trainer. I was privileged to have been a part of its development in its current form. I was exposed to the “why” as well as the “what” of the standard and I am assuming that those who now provide “excavation/trenching competent person” training would find some of this helpful.

It is my hope that some of these insights will be positive and helpful. It is not my intent to speak definitively as an expert.

It would be helpful to realize that 1926.651(i)(3) is a part of a much larger general requirement—hazards associated with adjacent structures, buildings, walls, and other structures.

Space does not allow me to review previous comments on 1926.651(i). But—it is a section in which it might be said: CP, you are good, but not that good—when it comes to adjacent buildings, walls (soil retention), other structures…shoring, bracing or underpinning is required (shall).

In particular—you need to present what is mean by “adjacent” and the hinge—when working below the base or footing of these structures.

This section ends with a specific requirement to consult a registered professional engineer. You are good CP—but not that good. Get help.

In a remarkable fashion, our current standard is merely one paragraph.

In the earlier standard, the first general requirement addresses walkways, runways, and sidewalks. It clearly states that “no sidewalks shall be undermined unless shored to carry a minimum live load of one hundred and twenty-five (125) pounds per square foot. Three additional paragraphs follow.

Our current standard is concise because it does not dabble in efforts to tell you how to do your job.

It simply states: Sidewalks, pavements and appurtenant structures shall not be undermined unless a support system or another method of protection is provided to protect employees from possible collapse of such structures. 1926:651(i)(3)

As before—undermining is required—unless.

How you support these structures, sidewalks, pavements, and appurtenant structures (things connected or a part of the sidewalk or pavements–like curb, gutters) is up to you.

The mistake that is most frequently made by trainers when they, and if they, cover this section, is to recognized it is not only employees who are under these structures and are in danger when they collapse, but those who are standing on these structures observing the work, providing guidance.

Yes—there are two, possibly three groups of people who are at risk.

Day 7


Subpart P Excavations/General Requirements/Stability of Adjacent Structures  1926.651(i)(3)

Pic; Effort to provide support for sidewalk/pavement. Is this adequate?

Part 2 of 2

Part 1, the hazard and abatement was noted—and briefly stated, sidewalks, pavements, and appurtenant structures shall not be undermined unless a protective system or other support system is provided should these structures collapse.

OSHA recognizes that it is almost impossible to work “adjacent” to sidewalks, pavements, etc.—without undermining taking place.

To keep undermining from happening, a contractor would most likely have to tight sheet those areas.

OSHA points to abatement measures but leaves exactly what those are to the contractor. A support system or another method to protect employees from the collapse of those structures is required.

As noted in Part 1, there are three possible groups endangered. The employees in the excavation/trench, the employees standing on these structures, like the foremen, and then third party employees, such as city inspectors, shoring vendors sales people, truck drivers, subcontractors.

An example might help. Several years ago, a concrete truck driver, lost his life, on a city project, due to the failure of the general contractor to provide necessary protection.

The city engineer had specified tight sheeting due to soil conditions, loose and running for the full depth of 18 feet.

Contractor offered completion of project two months earlier than specified and at a greatly reduced costs. What city would not take that deal.

But the protective system allowed, over the tight sheeting specified, did not prohibit considerable undermining daily as work progressed.

There did not appear to be a problem—until, a concrete truck driver, approached the foreman to inquire when his load would be required. His 260 pounds added to the foreman’s 180 pounds was enough to cause the pavement to collapse, resulting in the death of the driver. The foreman was paralyzed from the neck down. Five years later he accepted a desk job with his old company.

The widow was awarded in excess of $2m to care for her and the children.

It would be an extraordinary competent person, who by way of experience sees “what is” and “what might be” a hazard and has the authority to take action to correct this situation. That said—if we would just follow the standard and provide a protective or support system for these structures such tragedies might be avoided.

As we have noted on several other occasions, the competent person must be proactive. Every person on that jobsite is under his purview—not just those who happen to be in the excavation/trench.

As noted in a recent TEST (Trench and Excavation Safety Taskforce) article, the competent person of the general contractor cannot ignore safety issues on the part of those who are on that site because they are employed by someone else.

I am my brother’s keeper!

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