Published November 20th, 2020
What is an Excavation Risk Assessment?
An excavation risk assessment is performed by a competent person like the foreman, backhoe operator, or a worker, to determine and decrease safety risks before trenching and excavating activities. Excavation risk assessments should be carried out at least daily and before the start of each shift to protect workers from cave-ins, making sure that protective systems such as sloping, benching, shoring, shielding, and other engineering controls are properly in place and in good condition.
This article briefly discusses:
- why use excavation checklists?;
- how to perform an excavation risk assessment;
- excavation risk assessments using a mobile app; and
- free excavation risk assessment and safety checklists you can download, customize, and use.
Excavation checklists are used to perform safety inspections and risk assessments for excavation and trenching projects. Excavation checklists are an essential tool used during pre-operations to evaluate the jobsite, utilities and equipment, access means, area atmosphere, and support systems to determine existing and predictable hazards and implement prompt corrective measures to eliminate or control these dangerous conditions.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that excavating is recognized as one of the most hazardous construction operations. In some situations, hazard potential increases, especially after rainstorms and when fissures, tension cracks, and water seepage occur, and the protection system design can be complex, generally if there is any change in the spoil pile and any indication of movement in adjacent structures. Listed below are simple steps on performing an excavation risk assessment:
The site safety supervisor, compliance officer, or competent person assigned to conduct the excavation risk assessment should have a clear understanding of soil mechanics, determination of soil type, and test equipment for evaluating soil type, support system design such as shoring types (hydraulic and pneumatic) and shielding types (trench boxes and combined use with sloping and benching), and OSHA excavation requirements.
To effectively anticipate and mitigate risks at an excavation site, the inspector should be able to detect hazards, especially in ingress/egress and loading/unloading areas and in the actual trenching activities, whether deep excavations or manual excavations. The most common excavation hazards include:
- falls, falling loads, crushing, and entrapment;
- construction vehicles or mobile equipment;
- underground services or utility lines; and
- exposure to hazardous contaminants and toxic atmospheres.
Excavation risk assessors should also be able to identify potential system failures conditions that could lead to cave-ins such as standing water and water accumulation, bulging at the bottom, and weakening adjacent structures.
Since excavation safety can be a matter of life or death, it is crucial to take prompt corrective actions to remove hazards and minimize risks, even to stop working when the situation demands it. Additional precautions and control measures should be adequately documented in the excavation method statement and risk assessment report.
Apart from requiring all workers to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times and all equipment operators to possess the necessary certifications, excavators or excavation site operators should reinforce mandatory trench boxes when the depth exceeds minimum thresholds, allow adequate breaks during the heat season, and strive to control access zones, limiting personnel from entering the trench and work area.
Excavation Safety Meetings
One of the effectiveness indicators of a risk assessment for excavation works is when all workers not only become more aware of the identified hazards and controlled risks onsite, but they also intentionally demonstrate safer behaviors at work. To help reinforce excavation safety, every team should conduct safety meetings or toolbox talks regularly.
Site safety supervisors, compliance officers, and training coordinators, in partnership with the competent person-in-charge of excavation risk assessments and the registered professional engineer (RPE), should communicate lessons learned and practice excavation toolbox talks, discussing:
- what to do before excavating;
- what not to do during excavation;
- the factors that determine the appropriate protective system to use;
- the different types of protective systems used to protect against cave-ins; and
- emergency procedures for trench cave-ins, among other relevant excavation safety topics
To ensure continuous improvement and building a culture of excavation safety, excavators and workers should work together in keeping a close eye on the hazards identified, risks controlled, and corrective/preventive measures applied, spot trends, and eventually be able to more accurately predict potential risks and prevent them even before they happen.
An effective excavation risk assessment done regularly is only the beginning of excavation safety. It takes commitment and consistency from both the employer and employees to build and sustain a culture of excavation safety. With free mobile-ready excavation risk assessment and safety checklists from iAuditor by SafetyCulture, you can:
- Easily convert paper risk assessment forms into mobile-ready excavation checklists with smartscan or customize pre-built, industry templates with drag-and-drop editor
- Use excavation risk assessment and safety checklists anytime, anywhere, and on any mobile device—even when offline
- Take or attach photo evidence of the trenching and excavating risk assessments or excavation safety inspections and annotate images for improved visual reference
- Assign corrective/preventive actions with a priority level and due date to eliminate existing and predictable hazards or safety risks immediately
- Auto-generate and secure excavation safety reports in the cloud and share them to personnel with a tap of a finger
Featured Excavation Risk Assessment and Safety Checklists
Excavation Risk Assessment
This excavation risk assessment is created according to the OSHA excavation and trenching worksite analysis and converted with and best used in the iAuditor app. Use this checklist to evaluate an excavation area or site if safe before all workers set foot and perform their jobs under the ground. Capture hazards and check if spoil placements, protection systems and access areas are in place. Evaluate the atmosphere and other environmental factors that may affect safety of the workers.
Excavation Safety Checklist
An excavation safety checklist is a tool used to perform daily worksite and equipment inspections before starting excavation and trenching work. Begin with recording the excavation purpose, dimensions, soil type, protective systems and equipment being used. Next evaluate the jobsite to ensure utilities, barriers, walkways and warning systems are in place. Also, check if the entry and exit paths are safe and secured. Proceed with assessing the atmosphere underground and the installation of the support systems. Complete the report by providing safety recommendations and signing off.
Excavation Risk Assessment Checklist
An excavation risk assessment aims to determine hazards and the severity and likelihood of each excavation hazard. Use this checklist to prioritize which hazards need immediate actions to be controlled or eliminated. A reference chart is provided to categorize a hazard and rate it based on risk assessment matrices. Provide controls and preventive measures to improve safety in the workplace.
This excavation checklist is based on the OSHA toolbox talk for excavation safety. Use this checklist before commencing work on excavations and trenching. Gather and collaborate with the team to discuss unresolved and existing issues that need to be addressed to avoid problems during operations. Make sure to record what was discussed during the toolbox talk and validate it by having all participants sign off using the iAuditor app.
Daily Excavation Checklist
A daily excavation checklist is used for protective systems and pre-dig checks prior to all construction site excavations. Use this pre-start excavation safety checklist to verify soil analysis, general inspection points, protective and support systems, and access and egress. Finalize the checklist with the digital signatures of the competent person who assessed the risks and the site foreman or supervisor as an official acknowledgement.
Excavation Inspection Checklist
This excavation inspection checklist is developed for contractors and business owners to fulfill their responsibilities in protecting their workers from serious harm and danger at work. Use this checklist to guide authorized people to perform safe excavation practices. Evaluate if designated competent persons adhere to regulatory excavation standards and if visual inspections are conducted. Use iAuditor as a record keeper of these inspections for safety and regulatory purposes.
Excavator Equipment Checklist
Use this checklist for start-up and shut-down procedures when operating a front shovel excavator. This template guides you to perform various checks when starting the machine, during warm-up, when moving the machine and when shutting down. This template can be customized for your specific heavy equipment or machinery being used during excavations and trenching.