OSHA has made reducing trenching and excavation hazards a top priority. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, excavation and trench-related fatalities in 2016 were nearly double the average of the previous five years. The primary hazard of trenching and excavation is employee injury from collapses, or cave-ins. To prevent cave-ins:

  • SLOPE or bench trench walls
  • SHORE trench walls with supports, or
  • SHIELD trench walls with trench boxes

Soil analysis is important in order to determine appropriate sloping, benching and shoring. Employers and workers should also:

  • Ensure there is a safe way to enter and exit a trench
  • Keep materials away from the edge of a trench
  • Look for standing water or atmospheric hazards
  • Never enter a trench unless it has been properly inspected

Additional trenching and excavation hazards include working with heavy machinery; manual handling of materials; working in proximity to traffic; electrical hazards from overhead and underground power-lines; and underground utilities, such as natural gas. OSHA has published Trenching and Excavation Safety to aid employers and workers in recognizing and controlling some of the hazards associated with trenching and excavation. Visit OSHA’s Trenching and Excavation webpage for more information.

Upcoming OSHA #3015 Excavation, Trenching, and Soil Mechanics Classes