Trenching and Excavation Safety, What You Need to Know

Trenching and Excavation Safety, What You Need to Know

There are numerous trenching and excavation safety requirements set by OSHA. This is no surprise, as trenching and excavation are among the most dangerous construction operations. OSHA defines excavation as any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the Earth’s surface formed by earth removal. On the other hand, trench is a narrow excavation (in relation to its length) made below the surface. Read on to learn some of the key elements to enforce excavation safety.

Pre-planning Stage

No matter how much experience or how many trenching jobs an employer has done in the past, it is crucial to enter any new project with caution and preparation. So, before beginning or bidding on a job, employers should know as much as possible about the job site. Further, it is imperative they know the materials they will need to have in order to perform the work safely and in compliance with OSHA standards. Employers can complete these steps by gathering information through job site studies, observations, test borings for soil type or conditions, and consultations with local officials and utility companies.

Dangers of Trenching and Excavation

Trenching and excavation work presents hazards to everyone involved. For instance, cave-ins pose the greatest risk and often result in worker fatalities. One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car. This means that an unprotected trench can be an early grave. Needless to say, employers must ensure that workers enter trenches only after adequate protections are in place to address and avoid cave-in hazards.

Excavation Safety Standards

The fight against fatalities on the job site begins with safety standards. Thus, operators can avoid incidents such as hitting underground utility lines. But how can they prevent such accidents during excavation work? Here are excavation safety standards that employers need to consider:

  • Determine the approximate location (s) of utility installations
  • Contact and notify the utility companies or owners involved
  • Ask utility companies or owners for the location of underground installations prior to the start of excavation work
  • Determine the exact location of underground installations by safe and acceptable means
  • Ensure that while the excavation is open, underground installations are protected

Employers need to invest in their most valued resources, their team’s safety. The excavation standards require employers to provide support systems like shoring, bracing, or underpinning. The reason behind such supports is to ensure that adjacent structures remain stable for the protection of workers.

Protective Systems

Designing a protective system to protect employees from cave-ins requires the consideration of many factors:

  • soil classification (part of preplanning also)
  • depth of cut
  • water content of soil
  • weather and climate
  • other operations in the vicinity

Employers have the liberty to choose the most practical design that will work best for them. However, whatever system they use must meet the expected performance criteria and align with OSHA and excavation safety standards.

Overhead Hazards Protection

Once safety precautions are taken at the ground level it can be easy to focus too heavily on the work below and miss the hazards overhead. Therefore, employers should also turn their focus on overhead power lines to avoid accidental contact. With Sigalarm proximity alarms, employers can guarantee safety and avoid power line contact. Make sure you contact us today and ask us about how to keep your team safe with our alarms.