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Excavation Safety for Workers. Specifically for Type C Soils. Submitted by Dr Les LaFountain with Project Navigator, Ltd., June 2008. Trench Dangers. Excavation cave-ins are a major source of fatalities within the construction industry each year

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Excavation safety for workers l.jpg

Excavation Safety for Workers

Specifically for Type C Soils

Submitted by Dr Les LaFountain with Project Navigator, Ltd., June 2008

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Trench Dangers

  • Excavation cave-ins are a major source of fatalities within the construction industry each year

  • During the period 1990-2000 there were 771 fatal accidents involving excavations in the US

  • The yearly fatality count ranged from 59 to 81 with an annual average of 70

  • For each excavation fatality perhaps ten times as many workers are injured, some of them with serious long term disabilities

  • The real tragedy is that most if not all excavation accidents are avoidable.

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  • Minimum safety requirements if employees are in the trench

    • Protect them from a cave-in

    • Your company must have someone who is trained in trench safety, called a Competent Person, who has made sure the trench is safe

  • The type of soil is important to trench design and we will use the safer design in the examples

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What to do Before Trench Ops

  • Activity or Job Hazard Analysis, or similar

  • Crew Activity Plan, or similar

  • Utilities location needed and done?

  • Test for low oxygen, hazardous fumes and toxic gases before entering a trench

  • Is Excavation greater than 5 feet deep (your site may use a depth of 4 ft) and less than 20 ft?

    • No: no problem

    • Yes: “competent person” must be on-site and must have evaluated excavation before and during work

  • An engineer must design any excavation deeper than 20 ft.

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What To Look For

  • Never enter a trench with straight, unshored sides that’s greater than 4 ft deep. Note the width to depth ratio.

  • Don’t enter a trench deeper than 20 ft unless an engineer has designed the trench shoring

  • Never enter a trench greater than 4 feet unless a “competent person” has designed or approved the trench.

20 FT Max

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Sloped Sides

  • Only go into a trench >4 deep if…

    • Sides are sloped soWidthis 1.5 times the depth. If the sides are not 1.5 to 1.0, ask why

  • And, only if a “competent person” has designed or approved the trench.

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Benched Sides

  • With some exceptions, Width must be 1.5 times the depth

  • Benches and/or slopes are OK in same excavation

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Other Things to Watch For

  • Water: None seeping, none ponding

  • Excavation Edges

    • No Soil piles within 2ft

    • No Heavy equipment within 2ft

  • Soil layers sloped into excavation

  • Building foundation adjacent

  • Ladder or sloped entrance every 25 ft.

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Anything deeper than 4 ft requires evaluation by competent person

Anything over 20 ft deep needs to be engineered

Excavation has to be 1.5 times wider than it is deep

Slope it or bench it

Other things to watch out for:

Heavy equipment parked on edge of excavation

Water in, or seeping into excavation

Soil layers that slope into the excavation

Stockpiles near edge of excavation

Building foundation at edge of excavation

Ladders or ramps are required every 25 ft.


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What To Do If personExcavation Doesn’t Look Right?

  • Everybody has the right to stop work and should use it, even if you’re not sure

  • No one can be terminated, or disciplined, or written up for stopping work because of a safety concern!