LAS CRUCES — “Every year there are more than 50 excavation fatalities in the U.S.,” says Dino Franco, safety and training director of the Associated Contractors of New Mexico. Franco is also an OSHA-authorized instructor in excavation. He’s in town to train a group of Las Cruces Utilities employees from the Gas, Water, and Wastewater Sections who are involved in projects that encompass excavating. Anytime a utility goes in underground, trenching and excavating are required.
Every three years, LCU requires Gas Section employees to take the 8-hour instruction, followed by a pass/fail exam that could take up to another hour. This year, Public Works employees were also invited to participate in the training; in all, close to 60 people signed up; the group was large enough to fill two classes.
Franco’s job is saving lives — he makes sure employees are educated to the risks involved in excavating, can recognize existing and potential hazards … and can do something about it. This is “competent person” training to ensure there is someone onsite with the authority to take prompt and remedial action to shut down an excavation when there are risks.
“Don’t become another victim,” Franco warns the class. “Nationally, we have approximately one fatality every week.” Risks include toxic odorless fumes in and around a dig site; air quality, and air monitoring become part of the safety check. “Do you have good, breathable air?” Franco asks. Other risks include cave-ins, traffic, falls, pedestrians, weather, falling objects, wildlife, underground utilities, and water — surface runoff, groundwater, and water accumulation in a saturated zone — they can all create lethal dangers when excavating.
A 3-page inspection form is used to identify on-site risks — it must be completed daily before work begins. “Work ceases until the inspection paperwork is done,” notes Franco.
“In 2011,” he says, “We learned the lesson close to home when two workers for the City of Las Vegas, NM, lost their lives in a double fatality here in our own state. It is for the protection of all workers that we at ACNM conduct safety training, and we cover a wide variety of topics toward that end.”
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to more than 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
Excavation Safety Training at Las Cruces Utilities. (2017, March 17).
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