#TheGrayWay: Keeping Workers Safe During Excavation and Trenching Projects

The goal of every construction project is safety. However, trenching and excavation is one of the most hazardous elements of a construction project. Without the proper planning or safety equipment, a cave-in in a trench can prove to be fatal. At Gray & Son, we know it’s important to follow proper safety protocols when working on an excavation or trenching project.

Staying Safe Starts Before Excavation

Before you even start excavation, it’s important to understand the ground you’re digging into. Preplanning is one of the most important steps of an excavation project. First contact Miss Utility to locate any underground utilities before you start to dig. According to the Occupational and Health Administration (OSHA) and Maryland Occupational and Health Administration (MOSHA),  it is important to consider a number of safety factors including traffic, proximity and physical condition of nearby structures, soil classification, surface and groundwater, location of water table, overhead and underground utilities, weather, quantity of shoring or protective systems that may be required, fall protection needs, number of ladders that may be needed, and other equipment needs. By taking the time to consider these factors before you break ground, you can plan ahead and prevent injuries.

Excavation Safety

Excavation includes hazards such as machine usage, falls or falling loads, and utility lines. Ensure that all workers operating machinery are certified and trained to do so. Follow OSHA/MOSHA recommendations by utilizing a flagger or spotter to direct vehicles in areas where an operator’s view may be obstructed.

Workers have a risk of falling into excavated areas. Be sure to install safety signs and markers to alert workers and vehicle operators of an excavation site’s perimeter. In addition, equipment, overhead loads, or excavated dirt pose a risk of falling into trenches. OHSA/MOSHA requires storage of any job site material at least 2 feet away from a trench’s edge to prevent injuring workers below. Be sure to check an excavation site for any utility lines. Failure to do so could result in gas leaks or execution. Before any digging begins, you should be aware of any municipality fixtures in the vicinity of your worksite. Keep workers safe throughout the excavation process by following these tips.

Trench Safety

Trenching is one of the most dangerous elements of a construction site. Potential accidents can include falls, cave-ins, asphyxiation, explosions or electrocution, and crush injuries. Taking the proper preventative measures on the worksite can help prevent these injuries.

Trench collapses or cave-ins pose the greatest risk to workers’ lives. The main cause of trench cave-ins is improper protective systems. OSHA/MOSHA’s safety guidelines recommend the following to prevent cave-ins and protect workers:

  • SLOPE IT: ensure that trench walls are sloped. This helps prevent cave-ins. According to OSHA, trenches less than 20 feet in depth, the slope needs to be cut back to 1.5 times wider than the depth of the trench. However, this rule can be complicated as trenches grow larger. The use of an app, such as the one from National Trench Safety, can help to ensure that your trenches are slopped appropriately.
  • SHORE IT: utilize supports on trench walls. Trench shoring is the process of bracing the walls of a trench to prevent cave-ins. Trench shoring is often achieved by using hydraulic cylinders and FinnForm, or a special shoring plywood.
  • SHIELD IT: shield trench walls with trench boxes. Shielding does not prevent cave-ins, however, it does help to protect workers from a potentially dangerous collapse.

There should always be plenty of properly marked entry and exit points in trenches. Workers should be aware of all entry and exit points, especially in case of an emergency. According to OSHA, ladders should be placed within 25 feet of workers for trenches four feet or deeper.

#TheGrayWay: Let Us Show You How It’s Done

Although trenching and excavation can be extremely dangerous, fatal injuries are preventable. Here at Gray & Son, we take pride in keeping our workers safe. Don’t just take our word for it, we’d love to show you ourselves- contact us today to learn how Gray & Son can bring a safe construction site to your next project.


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