Excavation Safety Tips

There are many different types of excavation, but all of them pose a variety of hazards. Statistics show that excavation and trenching are among the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry. Competent excavation contractors always follow Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) trenching and excavation safety guidelines to ensure their workers have safe working conditions.

Common Safety Hazards

OSHA states that cave-ins pose the greatest danger to excavation workers and are more likely to cause fatalities compared to other safety hazards related to excavating and trenching. However, this line of work poses many other risks, including:

  • Falling people, loads and equipment
  • Rocks and other debris falling on workers
  • Various hazards from using heavy equipment
  • Nearby structures collapsing into the excavated area
  • Damaged underground utilities causing electrocution, gas leaks, explosions or flooding
  • Hazardous atmospheres, such as oxygen deficiency or combustible or harmful contaminants

Safety Inspections and Checklists

Excavation contractors should perform a pre-work safety inspection before allowing any work to begin each day. Daily excavation site inspections are easily performed using a safety checklist and help reduce hazards and the risk of injury. Always check weather conditions, especially impending rainstorms, and inspect trenches daily prior to beginning work. Use your checklist to check areas essential to worker and site safety, including surface conditions, access areas, support and warning systems, utilities, atmosphere within trenches, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other areas of the jobsite to identify potential problems before they occur.

Surface Safety Tips

Falls into an open trench or debris falling onto workers inside the trench can be avoided with appropriate surface safety precautions. Earth and rock excavations done near roads, buildings or other structures put workers at further risk from surface encumbrances, such as utilities, power poles, concrete from nearby roads or sidewalks, foundation or wall materials from nearby structures, transformer vaults and geologic anomalies. Make sure all surface encumbrances have been removed or are supported so as not to endanger workers. Other surface safety tips include making sure:

  • Bridges and walkways over excavation are equipped with appropriate guardrails
  • Barriers are placed around all excavations, pits, wells, shafts, etc.
  • All equipment, spoil and materials are kept at least 2 feet from the excavation edge
  • All equipment operating near the excavation edge is equipped with a warning system

Support and Protective System Safety Tips

Support systems include materials and/or equipment and are meant to protect workers throughout an excavation project. Safety tips to keep in mind regarding these support systems include:

  • Ensure installed protective systems don’t pose risks of collapses, cave-ins or falling materials or equipment
  • Select support system materials and/or equipment based on trench depth, soil analysis and expected loads
  • Confirm support system members are securely fastened to prevent system failure
  • Confirm support systems appropriately stabilize adjacent roadways, structures, etc.
  • Install a shield system to prevent lateral movement and prohibit employees from remaining in this system during vertical movement
  • Ensure protective system materials and/or equipment are regularly inspected and removed from service if they’re not in good condition
  • Before putting previously damaged protective system materials and/or equipment back into service, have a registered professional engineer inspect it
  • Remove support systems only as backfill progresses

General Worker Safety Tips

Employees and contractors should work together to promote safety on the work site and for everyone working on the project. Some general safety tips include making sure employees:

  • Always wear appropriate hard hats
  • Are trained on PPE and rescue equipment
  • Wear highly visible clothing and/or warning vests when near vehicular traffic
  • Use safety harnesses and lifelines when entering deep, confined excavations
  • Avoid working above others while working on slope faces or benched excavations
  • Stand away from vehicles during loading and unloading
  • Never walk beneath suspended loads
  • Are protected from water accumulation by using appropriate pumping equipment
  • Are protected from oxygen deficiency and combustible or otherwise harmful contaminants through atmospheric testing within the excavation
  • Are provided ventilation to prevent exposure to flammable or hazardous atmospheres
  • Know the location of all electric, gas and water lines, which should be clearly marked
  • Closely monitor their surroundings within a trench for hazards, including unstable edges, cave-ins, rigging hazards, damaged utility lines, standing water, noxious gases, etc.
  • Never enter a trench, even briefly, without taking all the necessary precautions

Hire a Reputable Excavation Contractor

At Earthworkz, we take safety seriously and do everything to ensure the safety of our workers and the excavation site. We’re one of the most respected excavation contractors in the Greater Kansas City area, with a solid reputation for always using appropriate safety measures. Whether you need an excavator for a small job or an extensive contractor project, you can count on Earthworkz to get the job done in a safe and efficient manner. This is just one of the many reasons customers continually choose us over our competitors. Contact us at 816-355-0280 to schedule your excavation services consultation today.