New foundation for excavation ACOP


Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Trenching accidents account for serious injuries and fatalities Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

While we were digging around in MBIE records recently, we unearthed some unsettling facts about trenching and excavation accidents.

New foundation for excavation ACOP
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

In the last 10 years this type of work has resulted in seven workers dying and 24 workers suffering serious harm injuries.

Some of the ways in which workers have been seriously injured and killed were by falling into excavations, being trapped by a trench collapse, getting caught in the collapse of excavated materials, being struck by falling machinery or objects, coming into contact with underground services and exposure to hazardous atmospheres.

Trenching and excavating requires a high degree of skill and experience because many things can go wrong if trenches are not adequately shored, hazards have not been properly identified and controlled, or sites are not well managed.

MBIE's current Approved Code of Practice for Safety in Excavation and Shafts for Foundations (ACOP) was published in 1995 and is now very out of date. It is in desperate need of a revision, not only because of the Christchurch rebuild, but it remains an essential piece of guidance for our infrastructure and construction sectors. Excavation and trenching also affects a wide range of other activities such as traffic, pedestrians and underground utilities.

Roading New Zealand Industry Manager Alan Stevens says excavations and trenching can have impacts on traffic management. Road users and local authorities want this type of work to be completed on roads as quickly as possible but this has to be balanced up with working safely on the site.

To reduce the unacceptable levels of injuries and deaths from excavations and trenching MBIE is reviewing the ACOP along with industry stakeholders. MBIE has formed a working party with key stakeholders who have met three times to review the ACOP and research overseas guidance.

Members of the working party are representatives from Trenching and Shoring NZ, New Zealand Contractors' Federation Inc, InfraTrain New Zealand, Roading New Zealand and MBIE Health and Safety Inspectors. Other organisations that are involved with trenching and excavations have also been asked to participate.

The working party has decided to base their draft on a new foundation, the 2012 Safe Work Australia Code of Practice for Excavation Work. The working party will be meeting at the end of June to consider the current draft and hope to have the guidance out for public consultation by mid-July.

It is anticipated that the ACOP will be signed off by the Minister and published before the end of the year.

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