February 21, 2017
Trenching and Excavation Safety
By Jonathan Damashek
According to OSHA, trenching and excavation can be among the most hazardous construction activities. Excavation is defined as any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the ground’s surface. A trench is defined as a thin underground excavation that is deeper than it is wide.
There are many trenching hazards, but cave-ins are the most feared. Other threats include asphyxiation due to lack of oxygen in a confined space, inhalation of toxic fumes, drowning, falls, and falling loads. In addition, electrocution and explosions are also a hazard when workers are close to underground utilities.
The US Department of Labor says that the fatality rate for excavation work is 112% higher than the rate for general construction. To avoid these kind of accidents, there are many standards that must be followed:
NEVER enter an unprotected trench
OSHA states that trenches 5 feet or deeper require a protective system. Trenches 20 feet or deeper demand that the protective system be designed by a registered professional engineer or be based on tabulated data prepared and/or approved by a registered professional engineer.
Knowledge and Experience are a MUST
Trenches should be inspected daily by a competent person before any worker enters the work space to make sure there are no potential hazards. This worker should be able to identify existing dangers or working conditions that are unsafe for employees and know how to eliminate or control these risks.
Enter and Leave the Excavation Safely
Workers should enter and exit all excavations using ladders, steps, ramps or other safe devices. Always pay attention and enter slowly. Use proper shoes to avoid slip and falls.
Additional Safety Measures
Keep heavy equipment and loose tools away from trench edges. Make sure you know where underground utilities are located, and always test for low oxygen and toxic gases. Never work in a trench under difficult climate conditions like snow or heavy rains.
If you or a loved one is injured on a work site, contact us today for a free consultation. We will fight for your rights and for the compensation you and your family deserve.