There’s no question that working in the trenches can be a bit risky at times. However, every excavation jobsite doesn’t have to be a danger zone. With the proper safety guidelines in place, you can ensure that your workers remain secure and enjoy a safe working environment.
Make the rules crystal clear
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) offers explicit rules for excavation work. If you follow these regulations to the tee and enforce the rules with your employees constantly, you’ll be confident that your workers will stay safe in the trenches:
- Before allowing workers to enter the trenches, you must clear all surface hazards and move the spoil pile back two feet.
- Locate and protect, support, or remove all underground utilities and other hazards before workers enter the trench.
- Provide a safe means of entry and exit from excavations that are more than four feet deep.
- If you suspect hazardous atmospheres might exist in the site, you must test for these conditions. If hazardous atmospheres are detected, you should eliminate them before workers enter the trench.
- If your team is working in an excavation site more than four feet deep with the potential for hazardous conditions, you must provide emergency rescue equipment. Depending on the particular jobsite, this emergency equipment might include a breathing apparatus, a safety harness and line, and a basket stretcher.
- Provide adequate protection for workers in a trench where water could accumulate or where loose rocks or soil could fall or roll from the excavation face.
- Your workers must be trained to know when to leave an excavation and how to respond to an emergency.
- Employees must know how to properly use all provided equipment and protective gear.
- All workers must maintain safe work practices at all times.
- Employees should be trained to immediately report unsafe conditions to their supervisor.
Designate a safety leader
OSHA also recommends that employers designate a “competent person,” who can continually enforce safety rules. This competent leader should be responsible for:
- Daily inspection of the trench, nearby areas and protective systems. The worker should look for any evidence of potential cave-ins, protective system failures or any other hazardous conditions.
- Inspection of the excavation site after every rainstorm or other occurrence that could increase the odds of a hazardous situation.
- Immediate removal of workers from the trench if any hazardous conditions exist.
- Provide safe walkways where workers can cross over the excavation.
- Protect workers from potential cave-ins by providing a protective system designed in accordance with OSHA regulations. This might include support, sloping and benching or shield systems.
Without the proper safety procedures in place, an excavation site can easily become a death trap for workers. Protect your workers with a comprehensive set of safety regulations. You should also train your workers on these safety protocols and constantly reinforce these regulations. Although it might require some extra time and effort on your part, a strict safety system will definitely pay off for you and your workers.