Explore everything you need to know about excavation safety.

According to OSHA, an excavation is “any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the Earth’s surface formed by earth removal.” For example, a trench is a type of excavation. Excavations are a major source of injury and casualties in the construction industry, and OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926 Subpart P governs the safety precautions that must be taken when working in and around excavations. Explore everything you need to know about excavation safety.

The Dangers of Excavations

There are many dangers inherent in removing earth from the ground in large quantities. The largest danger is that the walls of the excavation can collapse, trapping those inside. A square yard of dirt can weigh over 3,000 lbs. and poses a suffocation hazard. 

Other dangers of excavations include materials falling into the excavation and the people in it, people or vehicles falling into the excavation, other structures collapsing into the excavation, and damage to underground services that can cause electrocution, explosion, a gas leak, and flooding. With all of the dangers, excavation safety is a must.

Excavation Safety

OSHA requires that for all excavations 5 feet deep or greater, one of the following protective system options must be utilized:

  • Sloping the ground
  • Benching the ground
  • Shoring the trench with supports such as planking or hydraulic jacks
  • Shielding the trench (using a trench box)

Additional safety measures that should be taken include:

  • Assign and train a competent person to design and install protective systems for excavations, and to identify and correct hazards.
  • Map and mark underground utility lines and dig at a minimum of 5 feet away when possible.
  • Use barriers and signage to keep people and vehicles away from the excavations.
  • Map out where spoil piles and heavy equipment routes will be to keep them from being too close to the excavation.
  • Develop a trench emergency action plan.

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!