Learn how to maintain the safety of workers and sustain uninterrupted work around excavations and trenches
Published December 7th, 2020
Excavation safety is a combination of safety precautions and mitigations in and around excavations and trenches to eliminate or control hazards in compliance with industry standards and regulations.
Excavation and trenching are amongst the most dangerous operations in the construction industry. Dangers can include cave-ins, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and hazards from using heavy equipment. Regular pre-work inspections can reduce hazards and serious risk of injury. Safety inspections should check for the type of excavation being conducted, support and warning systems in place, access areas, weather conditions, heavy equipment, and PPE.
In this article we will briefly discuss the following:
“As any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the Earth’s surface formed by earth removal,” according to OHSA’s definition, excavations involve many hazards. Here are some of the dangers brought by excavations:
Collapsing should be avoided by supporting the sides by either battering them or supporting them with sheets. Materials from the excavation should be stored at a safe distance from the excavation, this will help reduce the risk of them falling onto people. Adding barriers to excavation is an essential precaution to avoid people falling into the excavation. It is safer if vehicles are kept completely out of the excavation area but if required the use of barriers and stop-blocks should help mitigate that danger.
Cable, pipe, and service plans should be used to ensure that underground services are known so they can be marked on the ground or, ideally, the area avoided entirely. Around the areas where there are underground services, mechanical equipment should be avoided and instead use spades and/or shovels. Picks and forks should be avoided as they are more likely to pierce cables and pipes. Flooding can be avoided by ensuring that there is appropriate pumping equipment so that any water that seeps into the excavation can be easily pumped out to a safe area.
OSHA requires employers to implement protective measures for the safety of employees before they can work on and near excavations. Here are some examples of excavation protection:
To protect workers from injuries and fatalities, preventive measures should be implemented when workers begin excavating. According to OSHA, general safety measures to follow should cover the following:
A regular excavation risk assessment can help improve excavation safety in the workplace. iAuditor by SafetyCulture is a mobile-ready app that helps ensure safety protocols were followed by employees before commencing excavation works. With iAuditor, a competent person can perform excavation risk assessment anytime, anywhere, on any mobile device — even when offline. They can capture photo evidence of noncompliance with excavation safety protocols and generate excavation risk assessment reports instantly with a tap of a finger. They can easily share, access, and review these reports as it is automatically stored in a cloud.
Daily excavation safety inspections are ideally conducted before shift starts and, as deemed necessary, during work. Replace your paper-based excavation inspection forms with these free digital excavation templates you can use with iAuditor by SafetyCulture, a powerful mobile inspection app used in the construction industry. Take photos of excavation hazards, schedule inspections for your officials in the field, and generate PDF reports in real-time on your smartphone. Browse more excavation safety checklists here
Daily excavation safety inspections are ideally conducted before shift starts and, as deemed ...
SafetyCulture staff writer
Carlo Sheen Escano is a contributing writer for SafetyCulture based in Makati City, Philippines. Sheen has experience in digital marketing and has been writing for SafetyCulture since 2018. His articles mainly discuss risks in the workplace and well-known safety and quality processes used to mitigate them. Furthermore, Sheen is passionate about providing insights to global customers on how technology can help them to do the best work of their lives.
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