Spared from a trench collapse early in his career, Wendell Wood learned from that event and went on to successfully improve the safety and efficiency of cut trench excavation work for utility services in North America and beyond.

From field sales representative to leadership roles with a number of trench shoring equipment manufacturers, Wood helped develop distribution networks of “mom and pop” companies which in time became part of United Rentals, Sunbelt, Hertz, NTS, Trench Shoring and others.

As the first president of AEM’s Trench Shoring and Shielding Association (TSSA), Wood was recently recognized for his service and contribution to that group’s founding.

Currently a consultant and trainer, he looked back on the progress that has been made since he started out in the industry 37 years ago:

Q. In your opinion, what improvement or technology over the past 25 years has had the greatest impact on trench shoring and shielding safety?

A. The most important event would be publication of the rewritten OSHA Subpart P standard and the principle of the competent person on site monitoring the safety of the workers involved in excavation work.

As for technology, most important would be acceptance of European methods – slide rail and mega bracing for protective systems – principally used in tank installations, removal, pump stations, pit shoring of all kinds and for large-area temporary shoring.

Q. How does today’s state of the industry (use, handling and efficiency of shoring and shielding equipment) compare with 25 years ago?

Those who know would say that compliance is much greater (perhaps as much as 40 percent) and that some excavation activities that went unshored are now readily and easily shored due to the growth of the rental movement for shoring equipment.

The growth of corporate giants, market-driven Wall Street investments, have capitalized the possibilities of developing large and diverse fleets of equipment so that today, a contractor of some sense of safety and the regulations would be hard pressed to say that he can only do his best. Such statements, allowed when I entered the industry, are not acceptable today.

Q. What factors caused the industry to form the TSSA?

With the rewrite of the standard, it was obvious that a major segment of the shoring industry, hydraulic shoring, was not being recognized for its contributions and evident use.

Mike Plank asked the authorities why not and apparently, it was decided that tabulated data would suffice for the product, even though it was not a part of the drafts of 1983, 85, 87. The response was that if the industry could come together and develop a consensus on proper use of the product, it would consider including it as an appendix.

Since the product was not a serialized product, and since it was not always known as to who manufactured the equipment, there being a couple of underground manufacturers, the TSSA was formed to address common industry issues, the first and foremost being the development of a consensus on the proper use of hydraulic shoring.

The meeting was held in Kansas City, four engineers were present, and Jim Burson of Speed Shore brought together the consensus feelings of those engineers. The document was submitted to OSHA and ultimately resurfaced, much to our surprise, as Appendix D.

The consensus was that the product was not suitable in Type C soil given the definition of type C soil in the appendix A. Therefore, the manufacturers created C60 soil, soil that will stand long enough to install the system, as an alternative and to allow contractors to use existing product without the mandatory soil testing required in Appendix A.

Q. How does the need for and the importance of the work of the TSSA compare to the time it was formed? Is the industry safe for workers today?

As noted above, compliance is only at best 40 percent. It is still an easy industry to enter in most areas, the labor force is changing, and multiple types of equipment are available.

The TSSA, with its new operating concept on consensus, is able to produce documents that provide helpful instructions on proper equipment use. There are practices that are not within the engineering parameters of the Tabulated Data that need to be addressed in a collective fashion.

The problem for TSSA has been the inability to get its message out to a much broader audience. It would be helpful if all manufacturers would commit themselves to full involvement.

For More Information

For more information on the Trench Shoring and Shielding Association, contact Nate Burton, AEM technical and safety services manager (, tel: 414-298-4126).