Trenches 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep or greater require a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock. Trenches 20 feet (6.1 meters) deep or greater require that the protective system be de-signed by a registered professional engineer or be based on tabulated data prepared and/ or approved by a registered professional engineer.
There are different types of protective systems. Sloping involves cutting back the trench wall at an angle inclined away from the excavation. Shoring requires installing aluminum hydraulic or other types of supports to prevent soil movement and cave-ins. Shielding protects workers by using trench boxes or other types of supports to prevent soil cave-ins.
Designing a protective system can be complex because you must consider many factors:
- Soil classification
- Depth of cut
- Water content of soil
- Changes due to weather or climate
- Surcharge loads (eg., spoil, other materials to be used in the trench)
- Other operations in the vicinity
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