For many workers throughout the construction and utility industries, working in trenches is a normal, daily activity. But did you know that these applications are one of the most hazardous to work in?
Trench safety mishaps and other common mistakes can cause serious injury or loss of life. By understanding the best occupational safety tips for working in trenches and performing routine trench inspections, you can ensure worker safety and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your work environment.
Important Trench Safety Tips
Unprotected trenches are the cause of numerous avoidable injuries every year. With proper preparation, safety procedures and regular inspections, this can be prevented. When working in trenches, it’s crucial to incorporate proper safety protections like:
- Sloping: Angling the trench walls away from the excavation site.
- Cutting: Creating stepped grades for certain types of soil.
- Shaving: Installing trench supports, like aluminum or hydraulic materials, to prevent soil movement.
- Shielding: Using trench boxes or other tools to prevent soil cave-ins.
To stay safer in trenches, keep the following trench safety tips in mind:
- Avoid entering unprotected trenches.
- Make sure surcharge loads are at least two feet from the edge of the trench.
- Know the locations of all underground utility systems.
- Regularly test for hazardous fumes, toxic gases and areas of low oxygen.
- Never have workers perform tasks beneath suspended loads.
- Provide protective systems for trenches that are five feet deep or larger, unless the trench is made from stable rock materials.
- Ensure trenches that are 20 feet deep or lower are designed by a registered engineer or created using trusted dated from a professional engineer.
- Place excavated materials and large equipment at least two feet away from the edge of the trench.
- Have a safe trench exit available within 25 feet of workers.
Along with these essential trench safety tips, competent and capable individuals should regularly inspect trenches every day at the beginning of each shift, after rainstorms and as environmental or situational conditions change to minimize and eliminate the risk of excavation hazards.
To determine whether a worker is considered qualified for this important task, find someone capable of accurately identifying existing and possible dangers or locating environments that are potentially hazardous or unsanitary to worksite employees. In addition to these qualifications, a capable person is one who is also able and authorized to make immediate changes to sites in order to eliminate or repair hazardous conditions.
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