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Oklahoma State University

HAZ- Excavation and Trench Safety

The primary hazards of trenching and excavation are employee injury or death from soil collapse. Soil analysis is important in order to determine appropriate sloping, benching, or shoring. Additional hazards include working with heavy machinery; manual handling of materials; working in proximity to traffic; overhead electrical hazards and underground utilities and heat stress. No matter how many trenching, shoring, and backfilling jobs done in the past, it is important to approach each new job with the utmost care and preparation. Many on-the-job accidents result directly from inadequate initial planning. Waiting until after the work has started to correct mistakes in shoring or sloping slows down the operation, adds to the cost, and increases the possibility of a cave-in or other excavation failure.

The standards (OSHA 1926.650, .651, and .652) require the presence of a COMPETENT PERSON for excavation and trenching activities. A COMPETENT PERSON is defined as an individual who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards or working conditions that are hazardous, unsanitary, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate or control these hazards and conditions. A COMPETENT PERSON must inspect an excavation and the areas around it daily for possible cave-ins, failures of protective systems and equipment, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions. Inspections also are required after natural events such as heavy rains. A competent person must test any excavation deeper than 4 feet or where an oxygen deficiency or a hazardous atmosphere is present or could reasonably be expected.

Professional Development provides a two day course to provide awareness level training to employees and assist employers in assigning competent person responsibilities to select employees. The course consists of classroom presentations of topics such as planning the excavation, determination of soil types, test equipment, shoring, shielding, sloping and benching. Emergency scene management, rescue concerns, and working with local emergency services are addressed.

During the hands-on portion, a trench is properly approached and various protective systems are installed including mechanical, hydraulic, and pneumatic. All participants experience working with the equipment and assist with the rescue of a manikin.

Participants must provide their own protective helmet, safety glasses, and steel toed shoes. Companies providing the training to employees should anticipate their policies and procedures being presented to insure integration and compliance with OSHA standards.

This course is presented throughout the United States during the months of May, June, and July.