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Safety Spotlight: Excavations

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

By: Alec Schaufenbuel

Excavation safety must be a top priority

Excavation is the process of moving materials such as earth or rock. In construction, excavation is used to create building foundations and roads by trenching, digging, or dredging with tools or equipment. Excavation sites on a construction project are some of the most dangerous work areas. In Iowa, our soil types and climate play a major role in how excavation should be completed. Excavation safety should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind when planning a project as the risk of injury comes from not only working around heavy machinery in a tight space, but also from soil collapse.

Due to the high risk nature of excavation work, OSHA created the National Emphasis Program for Excavations and Trenching in October 2018. According to their website, “the primary hazard of trenching is employee injury from collapse”. Which is why a soil analysis is crucial to have before beginning work. A soil analysis will determine appropriate sloping, benching and shoring. 

Additional hazards associated with excavation work include operating heavy machinery, manually handling materials, working in close proximity to traffic, electrical hazards of overhead and underground power lines, and underground utilities such as natural gas. Working with all of these potential conditions in a smaller space also increases the risk associated with this work.

At Neumann Brothers, we follow the “rule of 4”. If an excavation is going to be four feet or deeper, we will provide: access/egress every 25 feet, atmospheric testing, and benching/sloping or a trench box. We are also about to launch an excavation checklist to help all trades on site manage their excavations safely. The checklist and the rule of 4 will help keep all excavation procedures on our jobsites uniform and safe. 

If you’d like additional information on excavations and excavation safety, visit OSHA's website.