February 28

Safety Issues During Excavation

As we’ve said before: Excavation is one of the most, if not the most dangerous types of work during a construction project. Many accidents and fatalities can be avoided if all of the workers in a trench or dig site are able to spot, identify, and alert other workers of work site safety issues.

First and foremost, plans and strategies need to be laid out before anyone even enters the dig site. Sending in workers who are unclear of the project is a recipe for disaster. They also need to be warned of the hazards they will be facing during the project so they may take the correct precautions to prevent an accident from occurring. Doing so will keep everyone in the site on the same page which effectively lowers the risk of injuries.

Proper precautions for entering deeper dig sites must be taken as well:

When workers are required to enter an excavated area that is more than 4 feet deep, confined space safety rules must be followed. These rules require preliminary monitoring in the work area if breathable air contamination or a hazardous atmosphere is suspected.

The deeper the excavation becomes, the more risks are going to be faced by the workers. Some of them may not be as obvious as cave-ins. Air contamination is very dangerous because there are times when air contaminants have no odor to them. Workers could be working in and inhaling toxic air and not even know it. It’s imperative that the air quality be tested often to avoid illness.

Other safety issues that need to be monitored by all the staff on site include:

  • Equipment should be operated only by trained workers.
  • No work should be performed on the faces of sloped or benched excavations above workers without protecting workers at the lower levels.
  • Drainage must be provided whenever work is performed in excavations where water is accumulating or can accumulate.
  • Stairways, ladders, and/or ramps must be provided in all trenches that are 4 feet deep or deeper. Means of access/egress must be positioned so they are no more than 25 feet from any worker inside the work area. Earthen ramps are acceptable for egress only if a worker can use them while walking in an upright position.
  • Guardrails must be provided on walkways or bridges that cross excavations that are more than 6 feet deep.
  • Reflector or warning vests must be worn by all workers when vehicular traffic is present or in close proximity to the excavation site. It also may be necessary to provide traffic control in busy work areas.
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Monitoring these safety issues and taking action to prevent them from becoming a problem is an effective practice in mitigating risk on excavation sites and keeping workers safe and healthy. However, it is in the nature of accidents to happen even when all precautions have been taken. Should the worst happen, it is helpful to have an insurance program built for the specific needs of site improvement contractors.

For more information, visit SitePro.

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