Top Tips for Construction Worker Safety at Trench Sites

Top Tips for Construction Worker Safety at Trench Sites

Excavation, trenching, and working in and around trenches rank as some of the most dangerous activities on any construction site. Collapses and cave-ins are the most common associated hazard. They’re responsible for about three dozen construction worker fatalities and hundreds of job-site injuries every year. Falls, falling or tipping heavy equipment, falling loads, and other dangers are serious threats too.

OSHA defines an excavation as “any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the earth’s surface formed by earth removal.” It defines a trench as “a narrow underground excavation that is deeper than it is wide, and is no wider than 15 feet.”

Here are some of the most important tips for construction worker safety at trench sites and other excavations. Always keep these safety measures in mind when working at a trench or excavation site.

Safety Tips for Working in and Around Trenches

  • All workers at an excavation site should be trained to recognize and respond to potential hazards
  • Make sure underground utilities are located and marked at excavations
  • Never enter an unprotected trench; trenches at least 5 feet deep must have a suitable protection system—whether it’s sloping, benching, shoring, or shielding—and those at least 20 feet deep require a professionally engineered protective system
  • A trench has to be inspected by a competent person daily and whenever conditions change
  • Trenches should be inspected by a competent person at the start of each shift and after any precipitation
  • Soil classification is a critical part of the inspection process
  • Any excavation at least 4 feet deep must have safe methods of access and egress no more than 25 feet from every worker; this may be a ladder, ramp, steps, or other appropriate option
  • Only enter and exit a trench using the proper method of access and egress
  • Don’t walk along the edge of an excavation
  • Park heavy equipment as far from the excavation edge as possible
  • Keep tools, materials, machinery, and excavated substances at least 2 feet away from the edge of a trench
  • Surcharge loads should always be at least 2 feet from the edge of an excavation
  • Test excavations for oxygen levels and potentially hazardous fumes and gases
  • Don’t ever work in a trench beneath a suspended load

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