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OSHA Introduces New Safety Guide for Excavation and Trenching

Excavator/Trenching 1926.651

OSHA recently released a Trenching and Excavation Safety Guide to address the dangers of excavation and trenching,  providing advice on following standards in excavation and keeping workers safe. To learn more about Excavator and Trenching safety take our online course at

OSHA has outlined information for workers who dig trenches, including:
  •     Excavations vs. Trenches: Any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression is considered an excavation. A trench is a narrow excavation longer than it is wide measuring no more than 15 feet deep.
  •     Dangers of Trenching Operations: In addition to the danger of a cave-in, workers are also exposed to falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and hazards from mobile equipment.
  •     Soil Classifications: Employers must understand the difference in compressive strength and stability between rock, type A soil, type B soil, and type C soil and take the proper precautions to protect workers.
  •     What is a ‘competent person’: A competent person is an individual, designated by the employer, who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous or dangerous to workers, and who is authorized to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. Tasks performed include:
    • Soil Classification
    • Protective System Inspection
    • Structural Ramp Design
    • Water Removal Equipment Monitoring
    • Site Inspection
  •     Preplanning Factors:  Employers should approach each new job as unique because no two excavation or trenching projects are exactly the same. Approaching each new job with proper care and preparation. employers will not only protect workers (the main goal), they can also reduce costs associated with the project.
  •     Before Submitting Bid: Employers need to take into consideration a variety of factors before submitting bids, including weather, traffic, closeness to nearby structures, classification of soil, surface and groundwater,  protective systems, fall protection and ladders, and more. By conducting studies and surveys before making and submitting a bid, employers will have a better understanding of equipment, personnel, and planning needs.
  •     Protective Systems in Excavation: Generally, in order to protect workers from cave-ins, OSHA requires employers to
    •         Slope and bench the sides of the operation,
    •         Support the sides of the excavation, or
    •         Place a shield between the side of the excavation and the work area.
  •     Working Around Utilities: Before digging, call 811 to ensure that area is marked off and that there are no underground utilities where digging. Insure that all underground installations will be protected, supported, or removed in order to protect workers while excavating.

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