Trenches often need to be dug n order to repair or install roads, bridges, and buildings. They also need to be dug when repairing or installing sewer systems, gas lines, and electric lines. As a result, different types of shoring is needed along with a variety of protective systems and other safety measures. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines laws and safety regulations intended to protect construction workers and other individuals that may be in the vicinity.
What Is an Excavation?
According to OSHA’s definition, excavations are any type of man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression that is created by removing soil and other substances from the earth’s surface. A trench, for example, is a narrow underground excavation which is deeper than it is wide. Trenches are usually not wider than 15 feet.
The Need for Excavation Protective Systems
When trenches are five feet or more deep, they require a protective system, such as an aluminum trench shield. The exception to this rule is when these trenches are completely made in stable rock. If a trench is 20 or more feet deep, then the protective system needs to be designed and/or approved of by a registered professional engineer. When tabulated data is prepared and/or approved of by a registered professional engineer, this is also acceptable.
The Need for Safe Access and Egress
There are different types of equipment that may be used in order to provide safe access and egress to an excavation. According to OSHA, ladders, steps, ramps, or other types of equipment can provide safe access when employees are working in trenches that are four or more feet deep. In addition to following other requirements, OSHA mandates that these devices need to be located within 25 feet of all workers at the site.
The Need for Trench Boxes and Aluminum Trench Shields
While trench boxes and aluminum trench shields are usually used for open areas, there are other situations where they may be utilized. This includes in conjunction with sloping and benching. When there is sloping toward the excavation site, for example, the guidelines indicate that the box needs to extend a minimum of 18 inches above the excavation. In order to accomplish this, a benched area can be located next to, or adjacent to, the box.
It’s important to note that in many cases, aluminum trench shields are allowed when the earth is excavated two feet below the shield. However, this is only permitted when the shield is designed to withstand the forces involved with the full depth of the trench. Furthermore, there must not be any indications that this support system is unable to withstand possible soil loss from either behind or below the bottom of this system.
Learn More About Excavations and Safety Protocols
Given the various types of excavations that are made within the construction and related service industries, it’s important to learn as much as possible about proper safety protocols. Since excavations are required for a variety of repairs and installations, and this is considered to be dangerous work, following OSHA’s regulations is vital to protect workers, site personnel, and others that may be within the vicinity. When safety and other guidelines are diligently followed, it also increases the likelihood that jobs will be completed efficiently and effectively and that accidents will be reduced and/or avoided entirely.