Beginning on January 1, 2009, all excavators must obtain a permit prior to the creation of a trench made for a construction-related purpose on public or private land or rights-of-way in accordance with Chapter 82A of the Massachusetts General Laws. All municipalities must also establish a local permitting authority for the purpose of issuing these permits, with the designation of the local permitting authority left to the discretion of the individual municipalities. Chapter 82A further directs the Department of Public Safety and the Division of Occupational Safety to jointly draft regulations relative to trench safety. These regulations are codified in section 14.00 of title 520 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations.
In addition to the permit and local permitting authority requirements mandated by statute, the trench safety regulations require that all excavators, whether public or private, take specific precautions to protect the general public and prevent unauthorized access to unattended trenches. Accordingly, unattended trenches must be covered, barricaded or backfilled. Covers must be road plates at least ¾" thick or equivalent; barricades must be fences at least 6' high with no openings greater than 4" between vertical supports; backfilling must be sufficient to eliminate the trench. Alternatively, excavators may choose to attend trenches at all times, for instance by hiring a police detail, security guard or other attendant who will be present during times when the trench will be unattended by the excavator.
The regulations further provided that local permitting authorities, the Department of Public Safety, or the Division of Occupational Safety may order an immediate shutdown of a trench in the event of a death or serious injury; the failure to obtain a permit; or the failure to implement or effectively use adequate protections for the general public. The trench shall remain shutdown until reinspected and authorized to reopen provided, however, that excavators shall have the right to appeal an immediate shutdown. Permitting authorities are further authorized to suspend or revoke a permit following a hearing. Excavators may also be subject to administrative fines issued by the Department of Public Safety for identified violations.
Thank you for visiting the Trench Safety Regulations website. Inquiries relative to a municipality's local permitting authority should be directed to the specific municipality. For additional information about the Trench Safety Regulations please visit the links below.
- Laws and Regulations
- List of Permitting Authorities
- Construction Outlook Magazine file size 2MB
- April 16, 2009 Memorandum to Permitting Authorizes
DLS/OSHA Trench Safety Regulations Presentation, June 2016 file size 96MB
- Trench Safety Regulation Model Warrant Article
- Trench Regulation Fact Sheet
- Description of a Local Permitting Authority
- On-Line Notice of Administrative Action Pursuant to the Excavation of Trenches
Please contact Kimberly Spencer at Kimberly.Spencer@state.ma.us to add your municipality's permitting authority contact information to the DPS Permitting Authority List.
For Public Agencies: