Trenching and excavating are a regular part of construction operations and are compelled for a wide variety of building projects. Follow to the job-related Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, trenching is a leading jobsite hazard, which reasons an mean of 54 fatalities each year.* knowledge the risks associated with trenching and excavating can aid you protect against bodily injury and fatalities. Learn about OSHA’s common trenching and also excavation safety guidelines to assist protect yourself and also your crew the next time girlfriend dig.

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Trenching and also excavating: What’s the difference?


OSHA defines excavating together “any synthetic cut, cavity, trench, or depression in an earth surface developed by planet removal.” A trench is a type of small excavation in i beg your pardon the depth is generally greater 보다 the width, which does not exceed 15 feet. According to this definition, every trenches are excavations, yet not all excavations space trenches. The details safety needs for trenches rely on the depth the the trench.


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Trenches 5 feet to 19 feet: OSHA defines that any kind of trench other than those make of secure rock exceeding 5 feet in depth must have actually a protective system in place. The protective mechanism must be implemented by a knowledgeable person. This can be any worker that is qualified and capable of identify rock and soil composition and hazardous excavating conditions in enhancement to own the knowledge and authority to take corrective action.

Trenches 20 feet and deeper: A registered professional engineer must implement a protective device for any trench exceeding 20 feet in depth as forced by OSHA.


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Top 5 excavation security hazards

1. Cave-ins

Trench collapses death an median of 2 workers every month, do this a serious threat come worker safety. To protect against cave-ins, OSHA needs a skilled engineer or a qualified professional to analysis soil composition, and then design and also implement a device that:

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Hiring a professional engineer or a qualified expert to design a system that avoids cave-ins is critical for preventing injury and also jobsite fatalities.

Bonus tip: due to the fact that moisture and also other weather problems can influence soil stability, OSHA recommends that excavations be inspected in ~ the start of every shift, after that rains, or ~ other extreme weather events.

2. Falls and also falling loads

Workers and also work devices can loss into one excavated area. As soon as possible, install a barrier and also safety signage roughly the perimeter of the excavation to plainly mark the fall hazard. Falling loads, such together jobsite equipment or excavated dirt, can also fall right into a trenched area and crush anybody who is functioning below. This is why OSHA requires jobsite materials to it is in stored at the very least two feet far from the edge of an excavation. Additionally, OSHA recommends that employers perform not allow work come be conducted beneath exposed or raised loads.

3. Hazardous atmospheres

Trenched locations sometimes have actually depleted oxygen levels, i m sorry is safety danger that have to be take away into factor to consider on excavation sites. The setting in trenched locations can additionally be contaminated by toxic gases and also chemicals. Because that these reasons, OSHA needs atmospheric testing to be performed by a qualified skilled in excavations the exceed 4 feet. If atmospheric risks are present, then workers have to wear the ideal respiratory protection equipment depending on the danger in the excavated area.


4. Cell phone equipment

Accidents involving construction vehicles, such together dump van or backhoe loaders, space a common hazard that trenching sites. Mobile equipment operators might have one obstructed view and therefore not be able to detect as soon as they are approaching the perimeter of the trench. OSHA argues that a spotter or a flagger be designated to direct the mobile devices operator and prevent the automobile from fallout’s in the trench. When material is being invited or unloaded from the construction vehicle, workers have to be required to stand earlier in stimulate to avoid being hit by paris debris.

Bonus tip: attract the ideal protective apparel will certainly minimize the threat of working roughly mobile equipment. Make certain to stay a reflective vest to make yourself much more visible come mobile equipment operators, and wear a hard hat to defend your head from construction debris.

5. Hitting utility lines

In enhancement to leading to expensive damages to municipal infrastructure, hitting utility lines once digging can likewise cause electrocution and natural gas leaks,which have the right to lead come worker fatalities. Fortunately, you can conveniently avoid hitting energy lines by contacting your local utility companies before you dig. Simply call your regional 811 firm and enable the forced time for the utility suppliers to mark their lines. Not just will this keep your crew safe, yet this will help to avoid your company from being fined since digging without calling is illegal in many states.

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*According to the U.S. Office of Labor and also Statistics, report by the national Institute for work-related Safety and also Health