Nearly 40 workers died in cave-ins last year marking an alarming rise in excavation accidents. When it comes to trenching and excavations, knowing your surroundings can be the difference between life and death. Here are 5 rules to live by when working in and around open trenches and excavations:
1. All trench and excavation projects need a competent person
OSHA defines a competent person as someone who is capable of identifying/predicting hazards with the authorization to eliminate them. The competent person should inspect each excavation every day before work begins to confirm it is safe to work in/around. If conditions change, be sure to inspect again.
2. Keep soils at least 2ft from edge of excavation
Spoil piles should be greater than two feet from the edge to prevent equipment and spoils from falling in. If there is not enough clearance for a spoil pile, they should then be hauled away from the jobsite.
3. Extend all egress ladders and walkways 3ft above trench
For ingress/egress means, extend your ladder above the trench to allow for proper footing while using the ladder. Falls are the greatest risk to every construction project.
4. Excavations greater than 4ft require ladder for egress
Every trench/excavation deeper than 4ft is required to have an egress ladder. When working in trenches and large scale excavations, make sure you have a ladder accessible every 50ft.
5. Protection systems are required for excavations greater than 5ft
Remember the four types of protection systems: sloping, shoring, shielding, benching. Determine which type of protection will work best for your jobsite and its surroundings. When the excavation becomes greater than 20ft in depth, make sure the protection is designed by a professional.
Trenches and excavations are constantly changing and require every worker to be aware of their surroundings. If conditions change for the worse, remember all workers have the right to stop work. To keep the conversation going, download the Trenching and Excavation Toolbox Talk (TBT).