Recent studies conducted from 2000-2006 by BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) found that during this six year period, over 270 individuals died in excavation or trenching incidents. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ("NIOSH") concluded that these studies prove approximately 56 individuals die each year from accidental cave-ins. To prevent fatal accidents you should provide workers with appropriate safety training and strictly enforce safe excavation practices.
Top Excavation Safety Tips from NIOSH
- Train a specific individual to oversee each excavation job and properly enforce specific safety regulations
- Always call 811 before you dig to get proper mark-outs for gas, electric, and water lines
- Have an expert examine soil stability before the dig
- Trenches over 20 feet in depth need a site-specific, professionally engineered protective system
- Develop and have employees practice a trench collapse emergency plan
- Before work begins and throughout each workday, the job foreman or the safety enforcement employee should recheck the excavation site for soil and safety apparatus stability, especially after a storm
- Trench exit ladders should never be over 25 feet away from the workers inside
- Notify subcontractors of the trench location and make sure they keep vehicles and other heavy equipment at a safe distance from the trench
- Closely monitor the trench for hazards other than cave-ins such as noxious gases, unstable edges, or rigging hazards.
- Instruct workers to never enter a trench, even for a short period, without taking proper precautions
- Owners and clients should be notified of your trench safety practices and adhere to regulations when visiting the site
- Teach employees about trench collapse warning signs, but also that these signs may not present themselves before an incident
- Devise a job site layout plan that specifically designated areas where it is safe to place spoil piles and transport heavy equipment