Road Construction

Excavation and Trench Safety

Excavation and trench work is some of the most dangerous work in the construction industry. The hazards are many: falls, falling objects, hazardous atmospheres, and trench collapse to name a few. Here are some basic protective measures to keep you and others safe when working in and around trenches and excavations.

Always plan for safety ahead of time. Decide what protective measures you will put in place. Trenches greater than 5 feet in depth will need a protective system in place such as sloping, benching, shoring or a trench box. This will depend on the type of soil you are digging in; a competent person must determine the soil type. Spoil piles and other materials should always be kept at least 2 feet from the edge of the excavation and a means of access or egress must be placed every 25 feet laterally. Before digging, call 811 and have all underground utilities identified and marked.

When working in a trench or excavation, always wear appropriate PPE, especially hard hats. A competent person should monitor the atmosphere to ensure there are no hazards present. Keep heavy equipment away from the trench to ensure the walls are not weakened by the heavy weight. Be aware of trench failure warning signs such as cracking, sagging, or bulging of the trench walls or bubbling on the floor of the trench. If you see any of these signs immediately leave the trench and alert other workers. Be especially aware of these types of signs after wet weather and in the spring and winter months when water levels are at their highest.

This is not a comprehensive guide to working in trenches and excavations. Before working in any kind of trench or excavation, you should receive complete safety training for the hazards you may encounter in the work you are doing.


This information is provided as a service to you by Compliance Consultants, Inc.

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