An excavation is any man-made cut, cavity, trench or depression in the ground, formed by the removal of earth. Also, excavation work generally means work involving removal of soil or rock from a site to form an open face, hole or activity, using tools, machinery or explosives. Excavation work can occur anywhere such as on construction sites, on business premises, and in public areas. Excavation work includes open excavation, potholing, pit excavations, trenches and retaining walls and finally shafts and drives.
The law says you must prevent danger to workers in or near excavations. To maintain the required precautions, a competent person must inspect excavation supports or batter at the start of the working shift and at other specified times. No work should take place until the excavation is safe.
The following are a list of safety precautions while working in tight access excavations:
- The area must be cleared, approved and a site-specific safety must be completed prior to the start of excavation. Excavation may be considered a confined space. Therefore atmospheric testing may be required.
- All excavation must have safe access ways, be properly barricaded and shall have a flashing light barricade at night. Spoil dirt may be used to barricade one side of a ditch or similar excavation. All dirt must be piled at least three back from the edge of an excavation and must be at least three feet high when used as barricades.
- All excavation four feet or deeper into which personnel may be allowed to enter, no matter how brief, shall be shored, benched and sloped to comply with the requirements.
- All soils are to be considered Class ”C” unless a soil laboratory determines and documents otherwise.
- All excavation shall be inspected daily.
- All walkways over an excavation shall have the guardrails if they are six feet or more above the bottom of the exaction.
- All adjacent walls before entering and after a heavy rain or that. Inspect shoring daily or more often in extremely wet weather.
- Nobody is permitted in an excavation while equipment is being used next to the edge.
- All excavation within three feet of a known active underground pipeline, conduit, or cable shall be hand probed and dug using insulated tools. If the underground utility cannot be found, all work shall stop at this location, and the field’s representative shall be notified.
- No employee is permitted to enter an excavation without being properly trained. This ensures that each person has the knowledge to keep themselves and others safe.
All workers must understand the nature of the work to be performed, the procedures to be followed, and the potential hazards to be encountered before any work begins. This also helps to ensure that work continues on the schedule given. Electrical, water, and sewer easements must be investigated and their locations properly identified to keep from accidentally puncturing or cutting a line.
Investigations indicate that improper planning, failure to recognise potential safety problems, lack of a formal excavation plan are the primary accident causes. Unsafe placement of spoil pile, operating equipment too close to the edge of a trench, improper shoring, failure to provide safe access and egress to the work area, and lack of adequate emergency rescue equipment are major contributing factors. In many cases, workers are not aware of the hazard potential or are not properly trained to identify safety issues.