Seven Rules for Safety While Working Around a Trench

Temporary shoring methods

Are you researching OSHA trench box regulations? Understanding the OSHA trench box regulations is important for more than just the sake of following the rules. Digging a trench is extremely dangerous work. According to OSHA’s website, two workers die every month as a result of a trench caving in across the United States.

OSHA trench box regulations have been developed based on industry best practices to protect workers who are responsible for excavation shoring or work in or around a trench. To fully understand OSHA trench box regulations, you should refer to the OSHA website itself. However, for quick reference, we’ve put together a list of safety rules for excavation, trenching, and shoring:

Seven Safety Rules for Trench Digging

  1. Look for areas of weakness. Every trench is different, and so every trench has a unique set of vulnerabilities. Throughout any trenching job, the workers onsite should make it a priority to always look fr sources of weakness that could cause a trench to cave in. If everyone working in or around a trench understand the risk and actively look to keep the work site safe, the risk of injury is lowered.

  2. Heavy equipment should never be near the rim of a trench.

    While each trench might have unique set of vulnerabilities, the area right along the walls of the trench are always the most prone to collapse. That risk is multiplied astronomically if the thousands of pounds that a piece of heavy machinery is placed along the weakest point of the wall of a trench. Not to mention that if a piece of heavy equipment causes a trench to collapse, the equipment itself will be come a lethal force that could seriously injure or kill a worker.

  3. Clearly mark off the location of underground utilities.

    Depending on where your trench is being dug, you may have sewage lines, gas lines, or electrical lines underneath your work site. If these lines aren’t clearly identified before the work begins, they create a substantial risk of being punctured. The risk of damaging a utility line ranges from flooding to electrocution. In any case, it can be avoided entirely if the workers understand the location of utility lines and avoid them.

  4. When needed, install shoring systems.

    Shoring systems are a series of vertical, diagonal, and/or horizontal beams that support the sides of a trench and prevent collapses. When the nature of your trench makes you particularly prone to a collapse, you should install shoring systems to support the inner walls of the trench. If you are unsure of whether or not your trench should utilize shoring systems for added support, you should have it evaluated by a licensed civil engineer.

  5. Carry away the excavated material as you dig your trench.

    It would seem that the simplest method of trenching would be to dig the earth and drop the excavated dirt on the edge of the trench, since this is the least amount of work and would also make it simple to cover the hole when the work is done. However, as the excavated dirt piles up, it adds a burden to the walls of the trench. This increases the risk of a cave in, and adds to the weight that would collapse on top of a worker. Instead, make sure the excavated dirt is at least two feet from the edge of the trench as it is being removed.

  6. Understand the atmospheric risks.
    The physical burden of the trench holding up is only part of the risk that workers are exposed to during excavation. The decaying process of the Earth created natural gases underground. As pockets of gas are exposed through the excavation process, the workers who are present could inhale hazardous fumes that could injure them or even be lethal. Before beginning an excavation, the test of the Earth should be conducted to indicate if there are toxic gases present, so that proper masks can be worn.
  7. Never consider a work site free of danger.

    Even if your work site has been reviewed by a licensed engineer, you should not assume that it is always going to be safe. Make sure at the beginning of each shift, that the workers review the setting and identify any potential hazards to their health or safety.

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