Working in trenches and excavations is inherently risky, making it essential that workers adhere to safety standards. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most workers killed or injured in excavation accidents are new hires, so supervisors must ensure that they know safety procedures.
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OSHA requires that means of egress be positioned along an excavation or trench so that a worker is never more than 25 feet from the closest exit. Ladders should be placed within trench shields, and ramps or stairways should be used within larger excavations.
A competent worker should inspect the trench or excavation before each shift and after any heavy rainfall. OSHA defines a competent worker as one who's capable of identifying existing hazards such as unsecured equipment along the opening of the trench and potential hazards such as early formation of cracks or fissures in excavation walls.
If sloping is used as a protective system, the excavation walls must be sloped at an angle that provides workers with safe and easy egress. When shoring and shielding are used, ensure that the materials used to provide barriers against the surrounding earth are in good condition both during installation and daily inspection.
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- New York City: Buildings: Excavation and Trench Safety Guidelines
- Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: Trenching and Excavation: Safety Principles
- United States Department of Labor: Occupation Safety & Health Administration: OSHA Fact Sheet: Trenching and Excavation Safety
- The Construction Safety Council: Safety Orientation for Excavation Workers