According to OSHA, trenching can be some of the most hazardous work on a construction site. Trench collapses and cave-ins are a very possible outcome if workers are not being cautious and following safe practices. In order to reduce trenching incidents and prevent workers from suffering serious injuries, follow the tips listed below.
5 Key Things You Should Know to Stay Safe:
- Ensure there’s a safe way to enter and exit
- Trenches must have cave-in protection
- Keep materials away from the edge of the trench
- Look for standing water or other hazards
- Never enter a trench unless it has been properly inspected
- SLOPE or bench trench walls
- SHORE trench walls with supports
- SHIELD trench walls with trench boxes
What is Sloping?
Sloping refers to cutting back the trench wall at an angle to create a slope. Benching is the act of creating steps (like long benches) to travel up and down the earthen wall. Both systems can be used by themselves or in conjunction with one another.
What is Shoring?
Shoring means that a support system made of timber, mechanical parts, or hydraulic systems that help prevent a cave-n are installed. This helps to provide an extra later of protection to prevent collapses.
What is Shielding?
Trench shields are meant to protect workers should a cave-in or a collapse occur. It is important to keep in mind that no one should be in the shield when it’s being moved.
Be cautious of Exposure to Falling Loads.
According to OSHA [link] No employee shall be permitted underneath loads handled by lifting or digging equipment. Employees shall be required to stand away from any vehicle being loaded or unloaded to avoid being struck by any spillage or falling materials.
Inspect Trenches Regularly
Trenches should be inspected regularly — before the start of work and multiple times throughout the working day. If there is a rainstorm or any other natural events, inspections also have to take place afterwards. The individual in charge of inspections should be a “competent person” as described by OSHA.
A competent person must be a professional engineer, trained in:
- identifying possible and current dangers
- Dangerous and hazardous working conditions for employees
- Eliminating dangers promptly
Install Safe Enter and Exit Points
According to OSHA standards, employers must provide safe and easy modes for access and egress for trenches deeper than four feet. Ladders or ramps are oftentimes used — the entrances and exits must also be within 25 ft of employees at all times.
Install Safety Signs
Installing safety signs helps to alert workers, or anyone walking in the vicinity of a trench to be extra cautious of where they are going. The sign should be visible and clear enough so workers can easily spot it and know to avoid entering the danger zone.
Hazards to Be Aware of
By being informed on trenching hazards ahead of time, workers can be aware of what they should be looking out for. This way, they can take action, make fast decisions, and know how to react in the event a dangerous situation arises. The list below includes some hazards workers should be aware of while working in a trench:
- Falling debris or equipment
- Flooding or water accumulation
- Hazardous atmosphere exposure
- Mobile equipment around the trench
At Frontier Industrial, maximizing the safety of workers is our number one priority. With proper training and knowledge of hazards to look out for, workers will be better protected on the job.