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Trenching & Excavation Safety Guide

Category: Equipment and Solutions

Underground Trench Safety

OSHA Trenching and Excavation Regulations

There are many potential hazards when working in mining, construction, oil exploration and other rugged industries. But perhaps none are more common or dangerous as trenching and excavation. Cave-ins, drowning, electrocution, toxic fumes, accidents and injuries relating to proper access and egress and working in and around heavy equipment all pose a serious threat to your people and valuable assets.

To protect against these concerns, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a variety of underground construction programs, policies and standards for businesses to follow. Consider the following underground trench safety tips to help ensure your next project complies with requirements.

Understand What OSHA Considers a Trench or Excavation

Any human-made cut, cavity, trench or depression made into the ground for the purpose of removing earth is an excavation. An excavation with a length or depth greater than 15 feet is a trench. If you’re creating either of these, it falls within OSHA trenching and excavating regulations.
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Understand the Risks

A basic, yet crucial step, in becoming underground construction safety-complaint is the ability to recognize the inherent dangers. Cave-ins are a primary concern and among the most prevalent safety incidents leading to injuries and fatalities in excavation and trenching. Additional common issues range from falling loads and debris and the presence of noxious or toxic fumes to contact with live utility lines, accidents involving heavy equipment and machinery, flooding water and being trapped below the surface with no egress.

Follow Best Practices

Most of the dangers of trenching and excavation can be mitigated by following a set of procedures designed to protect people working below ground. From keeping heavy machinery and material loads away from edges to taking the time to identify the location of electrical power lines and water pipes, construction crews should follow a safety checklist before starting work as a regular procedure.

Additional OSHA mandates require testing for the environment and air quality concerns, pre-shift and after rainstorm trench inspections and avoiding working under raised loads. All inspections must be performed by a competent employee with the expertise to identify present and/or potential issues leading to unsafe or unhealthy conditions.

Take Precautions

If you’re working on a trench that isn’t made of stable rock that’s five feet deep or greater, you are required to have a protective system in place. Depending on the particular project attributes such as the depth of the cut, type of soil, moisture levels, weather conditions and other factors, the appropriate sloping, shoring or shielding system is determined to guard against cave-ins. Larger and more complex trenches and excavations may require a customized protective system designed by a qualified professional. You are also required to provide ladders, ramps, steps or some other safe method of access and egress for all personnel.

For more information and assistance complying with OSHA trenching and excavation regulations, contact the experts at NMC The Cat Rental Store today. We offer a broad variety of top-quality efficiency trench safety and shoring equipment as well as professional services, safety resources and technical support.
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