Trenching and Excavation

What is trenching and excavation?


Trenching and excavation; is one of the deadliest activities in the United States. Approximately two workers are killed each month in trench collapses alone. According to federal OSHA, an excavation is any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in an earth surface formed by earth removal; and a trench is a narrow excavation made below the surface of the ground.

What hazards are associated with trenching and excavation?

1. Trench collapses
2. Struck by incidents involving mobile equipment such as loaders, excavators, etc.
3. Falls into trenches
4. Falling loads from overhead
5. Hazardous atmospheres
6. Heavy lifting incidents
7. Working near vehicular traffic
8. Contact with overhead power lines
9. Contact with natural gas lines and other underground utilities
10. Heat Illnesses

What controls may be used to protect yourself from trenching and excavation injuries and illnesses?


1. Never enter a trench unless the competent person has conducted an inspection on the trench that day.
2. If conditions have changed since the last inspection of the trench, do not enter until the competent person conducts a new inspection
3. Never enter a trench or excavation that is 5 feet deep or greater unless a protective system is installed. Exceptions may be made for excavations that are made entirely out of stable rock
4. Never enter a trench that is 20 feet or greater unless the protective system has been designed by a registered engineer or is based on tabulated data prepared and / or approved by a registered professional engineer
5. Always keep mobile equipment away from trench edges
6. Always keep excavated soil and other materials at least 2 feet from trench edges
7. Confirm that underground utilities have been located before digging
8. Ensure that tests for atmospheric hazards such as low oxygen, fumes, toxic gases, etc. when 4 feet deep or greater have been conducted
9. Always inspect trenches before each shift and after rainstorms or other water intrusions
10. Never work under a suspended or raised load
11. Always wear high visibility clothes and gear when working in close proximity to vehicular traffic
12. Use PPE such as hearing protection, eye protection, respiratory protection, protective gloves, boots, etc. where applicable

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