Protecting Your Excavation Workers From Trench Collapse

Construction & Contractors Blog

Digging trenches is often a necessary procedure in excavation, but not properly shoring them up can result in trench collapse. This dangerous situation puts your workers' lives at risk. That's why you need to do what you can to keep them safe by following these guidelines.

Collapses Can Be Deadly

If your excavation trench collapses without anybody inside, it's easy to re-dig it. However, if someone is in the trench, there's a good chance they will be seriously injured. Just one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car, making a collapsed trench a severe risk that must be avoided at all costs.

Typically, safety procedures and a protective system must be followed if a trench is deeper than five feet. This is a suggestion made by OSHA and is one worth following. While excavation trenches shallower than five feet may not need the following safety measures, they should probably be installed anyway.

Safety Procedures For This Concern

To avoid trench collapse, perform the following procedures to ensure it is structurally sound:

  • Inspect the soil for stability before digging – if it's mostly rocks, you're probably safe, but excessively wet or sandy soil is likely to be a serious danger
  • Install temporary wooden walls along the trench to hold it together
  • Place ladders through the trench that are no more than 25 feet from any worker in the trench
  • Cover the trench with a tarp if you expect rain and inspect it after the storm for damage
  • Check your trench in the morning before anyone gets inside and re-dig or shore it up with the wooden walls, if necessary
  • Repair any damage to the trench the moment it occurs – even small breaks can compromise its integrity
  • Limit the number of people in the trench to as low a number as possible, depending on your excavation needs

What To Do If A Trench Does Collapse

If a trench collapses on your workers, immediately call 911 and start digging them out with hand shovels. You should avoid using any excavation equipment here, as they are likely too imprecise for this process. Talk to the people who are buried to assure them you are on your way and dig as quickly as you can.

Try to find the heads and chests of the people who are buried and uncover them first. This will help prevent suffocation and severe pressure damage on their chest which may impact their internal organs. Remove all of the soil that you can, but avoid moving them, as this may cause more injury. Make sure to reinforce the trench walls after uncovering your workers to prevent more collapses.

Thankfully, following the proper safety procedures should make this often heart-breaking rescue attempt unnecessary. Taking any unnecessary shortcuts with your excavation trenches isn't worth the danger collapse poses. For more information, contact local professionals like T C Enterprises LLC.

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