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Excavation Safety Precautions And Best Practices

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Excavation Safety Precautions And Best Practices

Construction operations are fraught with hazards and workers always need to be extra cautious about safety and health. In this context, excavation accidents come ahead as one of the common and threatening hazards in the industry. Cave-ins represent the greatest and gravest danger, being the cause of thousands of work injuries and hundreds of deaths annually.

Further, falling loads and mobile equipment can result in disastrous situations on construction sites. Apart from these, there is a risk of exposure of workers to hazardous atmospheric conditions and damage to buried utilities as well.

Obviously, with such major risks being there, paying attention to the necessary precautions makes sense. Careful planning and execution of the right excavation-related precautions can reduce the potential risks and save lives. Here is a list of safety requirements and best practices that should be followed as a norm.

Understanding the risks first

To start with, you need to understand the risks related to excavation and this is all the more important if you are new to the industry. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), an excavation is defined as any man-made cuts, depressions, trenches or cavities which are formed by the removal of earth from the ground’s surface. A trench is a narrow, underground excavation that is deeper than it is wide, with the maximum width being 15 feet. When it comes to the risk potential, a worker can be buried alive very quickly if a trench wall collapses. The gravity of the risk can be understood by the fact that the weight of one cubic yard of earth could be thousands of pounds, which makes the situation life-threatening.

Excavation protection is mandatory

Before knowing the safety standards and best practices to be followed at excavation sites, it is vital to know that trench protection is mandatory according to OSHA’s excavation safety requirements. They should be followed no matter what and violations should be dealt with firmly. These requirements apply to all excavations deeper than 5 feet. However, these could be required for the ones that are cavities less than 5 feet deep, depending on factors such as type of soil and water in the vicinity. Additionally, trenches that run more than 20 feet deep require a proper protective system which is designed and approved by professional engineers.

Safety precautions that can save lives

Understanding the risks and mandates, it becomes vital to implement the requisite safety precautions that can save lives. Even before that, it is essential that homeowners and commercial project owners should rely only on excavation experts. They can check https://www.bobsbackhoe.com/tucson-excavating-services/ to see how excavation specialists work on small and large commercial and residential projects. Apart from the right expertise, it is important that a company has the right equipment and follows safety requisites as well. Here are the ones that need to be followed for all excavation projects.

Inspection by a competent person

According to OSHA standards, a designated competent person must inspect the trenches every day and while the conditions change. This competent person is essentially a trained individual capable of identifying and promptly addressing the hazards and dangerous working conditions at a job site. Only after the evaluation of the site by the competent person should workers be allowed to enter the excavation.

Contact utilities prior to excavation

Another hazardous aspect of excavation is the potential damage to underground utility lines which can result in explosion, damage to property, injury to workers, and inconvenient service disruptions in the area. Cutting into a water main is dangerous as it can lead to a quick collapse. Careless digging can cause such adverse incidents, which makes it essential to contact utilities before starting with any project. The purpose is to have them identify the location of underground lines and mark them so that you can go ahead safely.

Have protective systems in place

Workers should not enter trenches that are more than 5 feet and do not have an adequate protective system unless the excavation is made in stable rock. Similarly, a professionally designed system should be in place in trenches which are 20 feet deep or more. The different protective systems which can be utilized include sloping, shielding, and shoring. An appropriate protective system should be chosen by evaluating factors such as the depth of cut, water content, soil classification, surcharge loads, weather changes, and other operations taking place in the environs.

Provide safe access and exit

Apart from implementing the right safety procedures and systems, it is also important for excavations to provide safe access and exit as a part of the safety norms for the workers. Any trench which is more than 4 feet deep must implement safe access and exit methods such as steps, ramps, and ladders. Additionally, the safe exit method should not be located any further than 25 feet from any worker.

Implement general safety practices

There are some general safety practices that should also be enforced at all excavation sites. These include:

  • Heavy equipment and tools, loads, and other materials must be kept away from the edges of the trench.
  • Surcharge loads should be kept at a distance too, at least 2 feet from edges.
  • Vehicles and heavy equipment which create vibrations should also not be permitted near excavations.
  • Barricade materials such as tape and fencing must be used to prevent unauthorized people from walking near and around the excavation site.
  • Trenches should be tested for low oxygen, hazardous fumes, and toxic gases.
  • Shift inspections should be done without fail, while weather-related inspections should be conducted routinely, particularly after rainfall.
  • Workers should be made to wear hard hats at all times, in every trench and in the excavation work zone.

Excavation safety is an area that no company should overlook because doing so can have a far-reaching impact. While it can endanger lives, the reputation of the company, and the completion of the project are at stake as well. It is vital to follow the mandates and general guidelines as rules that are to be adhered to by one and the all. A periodic review of the measures is also vital to ensure that they go the extra mile to ensure worker safety and project completion without any unfortunate incidents. For the site owner, hiring an excavation company you can trust to comply with these guidelines and precautions can make all the difference.

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