A solid training program will provide the basis on which lives will be saved.
But it’s the proper implementation of what is taught in a classroom setting that could prevent a serious injury.
Even with this weighty responsibility, Bub Godsey, a trainer and shoring specialist for Coble Trench Safety, doesn’t feel the pressure.
“I know that I’ve saved a lot of people’s lives by what I’ve taught over the years,” he said. “I feel good about my job and what I teach.”
Godsey has been teaching job site safety classes since the mid-1980s and joined Coble when the company started its training program three years ago.
Godsey said the biggest step toward creating a safe workplace during his years as a trainer has been the 1989 law that requires one person — the “competent person” — to be responsible for protection of the workers in any site where they are exposed to excavation.
Prior to the passage of that law, he said there was a chance that, if an accident happened, individuals would pass responsibility onto someone else.
But now, one designated competent person must remain on site at all times.
“They know they have to do their job,” Godsey said.
OSHA guidelines dictate that the competent person is trained in soil analysis and use of protection systems. The training sessions — one for trenching and excavation and the other for confined spaces — last six hours each, but Godsey said the instructor-student relationship lasts much longer.
He gives everyone in his classes his cell phone number and is ready to answer any questions that might come up at the job site.
While a certified competent person is required to only take one session, “a refresher is good every couple of years,” Godsey said, as laws tend to change.
Approximately 50 to 100 people attend a Coble safety class each week. Godsey leads 90 percent of the classes, but the company has two other certified instructors.
In April, Godsey and one other instructor will become certified by the National Underground Contractors Association — a designation only offered by invitation.
The biggest cause of accidents involving excavation is the lack of or improper use of equipment. Godsey said in 86 percent of accidents, a competent person is not at the job site. And 66 percent of the time, there is no appropriate protection system.
Following an accident, companies can be forced to pay $1 million in fines and liability and a competent person at the site can be held personally accountable as well.
Penalties are far greater for people who have received training and who do not follow through with the safety measures. Anyone who knowingly puts a worker in danger could face criminal charges.
In addition to the requirement of a competent person, Godsey said the slide rail shoring system has been one of the greatest leaps in job site safety. Designed in Germany, it first came to the States in the early 1990s, when it was primarily used in the Northeast. From there, its popularity caught on in the West and has become more widely used in the Southeast for the past three years.
In the coming years, Godsey sees trench sites only becoming a safer place in which to work, as regulations become stricter.
“There’s going to be some changes, I think, in the next two years that will save lives and cut down on the number of accidents and fatalities,” he said.
Headquartered in Burlington, NC, Coble Trench Safety specializes in trench safety equipment rentals, sales, service and training. It also has locations in Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh, NC; Richmond, VA; and Myrtle Beach, SC. The company plans to open two more locations this year.
For more information, visit www.cobletrenchsafety.com. CEG Staff