Trenching and excavation are some of the most hazardous aspects of construction operations. A trench is a narrow excavation, with its depth usually being deeper than its width, meaning it has a greater chance of caving in and trapping those working in the trench under heavy, crushing earth, among other dangers. OSHA requires adequate protection for workers in trenches. See the basics of trenching safety and ensure all workers in and around a trench are safe.

Trenching Safety Basics

While no two trenches are exactly the same, there are basic safety rules of thumb to follow for all trenches and other excavations. These basics, boiled down from OSHA’s standard on trench and excavation safety, include:

  1. All trenches must have an adequate form of cave-in protection. A competent person—a worker who has undergone intensive training on trench safety—is tasked with choosing the best cave-in protection option and ensuring it is free from damage or defects.
  2. Make sure there is a safe way to enter and exit the trench. Ladders, steps, ramps, and other methods for entering or exiting a trench deeper than four feet must be located less than 25 feet from workers and must be designed by a competent person.
  3. All materials must be kept away from the edge of trench. Materials and tools placed at the edge of a trench pose a struck-from-above hazard as they could fall into the trench, striking the workers within. Similarly, heavy materials can weaken the earthen walls of the trench, increasing the possibility of a cave-in. Materials must be kept at least two feet from a trench’s edge and/or be kept in a retaining device to keep the materials from rolling into the trench.
  4. Always check the trench for hazards like standing water. Standing water can weaken the sides of a trench, increasing the likelihood of a cave-in. Other hazards include hazardous atmospheres for trenches deeper than four feet and utilities such as electricity and gas or sewage pipes near the excavation.
  5. Never enter a trench that has not been inspected by a competent person. Only enter a trench once a competent person has inspected it and deemed it to be safe.

Tucker Paving provides earthwork including site clearing, excavation, and demolition as part of our over 25 years of experience in the concrete and asphalt paving construction industry. We also offer site clearing, site grading, stabilized subgrade, base work, asphalt paving, underground utilities, and concrete curbs, sidewalks, slabs, and tie-beams. Call us at (863) 299-2262, or contact us online, for your next project!