Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations. Below outlines common excavation hazards & control measures that can protect workers from cave-ins and other hazards.
What are the dangers of trenching and excavation operations?
Trenching and excavation work presents serious hazards to all workers involved. Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are more likely than some other excavation-related incidents to result in worker fatalities.
One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car. An unprotected trench can be an early grave. Employers must ensure that workers enter trenches only after adequate protections are in place to address cave-in hazards. Other potential hazards associated with trenching work include falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and hazards from mobile equipment.
What is a competent person?
A competent person is an individual, designated by the employer, who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous or dangerous to workers, and who is authorized to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.
Tasks performed by the competent person include:
- Classifying soil
- Inspecting protective systems
- Designing structural ramps
- Monitoring water removal equipment
- Conducting site inspections
Why is preplanning important to excavation work?
No matter how many trenching, shoring, and backfilling jobs an employer has done in the past, it is important to approach each new job with care and preparation. Many on-the-job incidents result from inadequate initial planning. Waiting until after the work starts to correct mistakes in shoring or sloping slows down the operation, adds to the cost of the project, and makes a cave-in or other excavation failure more likely.
What safety factors should be considered when considering excavation hazards & control measures?
Before preparing a bid, employers should know as much as possible about the jobsite and the materials they will need to have on hand to perform the work safely and in compliance with OSHA standards. A safety checklist may prove helpful when employers are considering new projects. Factors to consider may include:
- Proximity and physical condition of nearby structures
- Soil classification
- Surface and ground water
- Location of the water table
- Overhead and underground utilities
- Quantity of shoring or protective systems that may be required
- Fall protection needs
- Number of ladders that may be needed
- Other equipment needs
How can employers prevent cave-ins?
- Sloping and benching the sides of the excavation;
- Supporting the sides of the excavation; or
- Placing a shield between the side of the excavation and the work area
What other precautions do employers need to take to protect workers from cave-ins?
The Excavation standards require employers to provide support systems, such as shoring, bracing, or underpinning, when necessary to ensure that adjacent structures (including adjoining buildings, walls, sidewalks and pavements) remain stable for the protection of workers.
What other excavation hazards do employers need to address?
In addition to cave-ins and related hazards, workers involved in excavation work are exposed to hazards involving falling loads and mobile equipment. To protect workers from these hazards, OSHA requires employers to take certain precautions.
How can employers protect workers from hazardous atmospheres inside excavations?
Atmospheric testing is required before workers enter an excavation greater than 4 feet (1.22 meters) in depth where an oxygen deficiency or a hazardous atmosphere is present or could reasonably be expected, such as in excavations in landfill areas or excavations in areas where hazardous substances are stored nearby.
What means of access and egress must employers provide?
OSHA requires employers to provide ladders, steps, ramps, or other safe means of egress for workers working in trench excavations 4 feet (1.22 meters) or deeper. The means of egress must be located so as not to require workers to travel more than 25 feet (7.62 meters) laterally within the trench.
At Ron Meyer & Associate Excavating, Inc, we’ve been providing underground and commercial construction to private and commercial businesses for 39 years. As the general contractor or subcontractor, our experienced foremen, equipment operators, pipe layers, truck drivers and well-maintained equipment fleet make us an undeniable choice for your excavating services. Let’s talk about your project!