A Quick Guide to Excavation Safety

A Quick Guide to Excavation Safety

Every year, countless accidents occur in trenches and excavation sites. Many of these accidents are preventable using proper safety measures. That’s why It’s important for excavation companies to understand excavation safety and follow the necessary guidelines. 

In this article, we will discuss excavation safety, the hazards associated with trenching and excavation, and how to prevent accidents. If you have workers working on excavation sites, we highly recommend you take the time to read this article and implement these safety measures into your business operations!


What is Excavation Safety?

Excavation safety is a set of standard safety precautions meant for trenching and excavation. These safety standards are put in place to help eliminate hazards and control risks at these sites. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) often refers to excavation safety as Trenching and Excavation Safety.


The OSHA Excavation Standards

OSHA excavation standards are requirements or specifications of requirements that employers must meet to protect workers from trenching and excavation hazards. The excavation regulation contains the following appendices:

  • Sloping and benching
  • Soil classification
  • Aluminum Hydraulic Shoring for Trenches
  • Timber Shoring for Trenches
  • Selection of protective systems
  • Alternatives to Timber Shoring.


Trenching Vs. Excavation: What’s the Difference?

Trenching is defined as a narrow, deep excavation made below the ground level. On the other hand, excavation is an “umbrella term” that encompasses any man-made cut, cavity or depression formed by earth removal. That means a man-made trench can also be referred to as an excavation, despite the fact that excavations are generally larger and wider than trenches. 

Now that you have a better understanding of excavation safety and the OSHA standards, let’s move on and discuss the hazards associated with trenching and excavation. 


Hazards Associated with Excavation

There are many hazards associated with trenching and excavation. According to OSHA, excavation involves the following hazards:

  • Collapsing of the sides of the excavation
  • Materials and debris falling on top of people.
  • Falls from either people or vehicles
  • Nearby structures collapsing into the excavation
  • Electrocution, gas leaks, flooding, or explosion caused by damage to underground services.


The Deadliest Excavation Hazard

A cave-in is the deadliest of all hazards associated with excavation. A cave-in is the sudden collapse of soil, sand, or rock around and into an excavation without warning. In this instance, workers don’t have the time to move out of the way and can get buried alive.

Cave-ins are most likely to happen in excavation sites that have not been properly supported or shored up. This is why it is so important for businesses to follow the OSHA excavation standards when performing work in these areas.


Excavation Safety Measures

According to an OSHA investigation, the primary reason why trenches collapse is that they are not properly protected and supported. This is why it is so important for businesses to take the necessary precautions to prevent accidents from happening. 

It’s important to implement protective systems like sloping the ground, shoring the trench with supports such as hydraulic jacks or planking, benching the ground, and shielding the trench using a trench box. In addition, other excavation safety measures include the following:

  • Avoid collapses by supporting the sides through sheets or battering.
  • Store materials at a safe distance from the excavation; doing so will help prevent them from falling onto people.
  • Add barriers around the excavation site to keep people and vehicles away.
  • Inspect the excavation regularly and remove any water that has accumulated.
  • Have a qualified person on site at all times to monitor the excavation.
  • Keep vehicles away from the excavation area; if required, use barriers and stop-blocks to mitigate the potential danger.
  • Ensure that all excavation equipment is properly maintained and in good working order.
  • Use cables, pipes, and service plans to ensure that underground services are known and marked.
  • Conduct a risk assessment of the excavation site before work begins.
  • Avoid the use of mechanical equipment around areas where there are underground services. Use shovels and spades instead.
  • Ensure that all workers are properly trained in excavation safety.
  • Avoid using picks and forks as they are more likely to pierce pipes and cables.
  • Avoid floods by ensuring appropriate pumping equipment; that way, any water that seeps into the excavation can be easily pumped out to a safer area.


Best Excavation Protection

OSHA requires employers to implement protective measures for the safety of employees working in and around excavations. The type of protective system used will depend on the soil conditions, depth of the excavation, and other factors. With that said, here are some of the best excavation protection:

  • Structural ramps: These are used in excavation sites where the soil is too weak to support the weight of the equipment without caving in. The ramp is placed over the excavation, and the equipment is driven onto it.
  • Trench boxes: Trench boxes are metal or plastic structures placed around the excavation to prevent the walls from caving in. These are typically used in deeper excavations.
  • High visibility vests: Employees exposed to public traffic while working around excavations must wear high-visibility vests. This will help motorists see them and avoid accidentally hitting them.
  • Warning signs: Warning signs should be placed around the perimeter of the excavation site to warn people of the potential danger.
  • Testing: it’s important to test the conditions of the atmosphere in and around excavations to ensure that it is safe even before workers are allowed to enter the site.
  • Emergency equipment: equipment such as harnesses, stretchers, and ladders should be readily available in case of an accident.
  • Regular inspections: inspections should be conducted regularly to ensure that the excavation site is safe and that no changes in conditions have occurred.


DATAMYTE is Perfect for Excavation Safety!

DATAMYTE is a quality management platform that helps enforce safety protocols and make sure employees follow every step before commencing excavation work.

The DataMyte Digital Clipboard is a workflow automation software that can provide tools and important features in helping you perform excavation safety, risk assessment, and quality control tasks. This software is designed to be used on mobile devices, making it easy for workers to access and use while on the job.

The DataMyte Digital Clipboard helps you manage excavation safety by:

  • Allowing you to create custom checklists for each job site
  • Providing a central repository for all safety data
  • Generating real-time reports to identify trends and potential hazards
  • Enabling you to track and manage safety incidents


The DataMyte Digital Clipboard is the perfect tool to help you manage excavation safety! With its easy-to-use interface and powerful features, you’ll be able to keep your workers safe and your excavation site in compliance with all safety regulations. Schedule a demo with us today!



Working in and around excavations can be dangerous, especially if your company is not following the proper safety protocols. By instilling proper excavation safety using DATAMYTE, you can help ensure that your excavation site is safe and compliant with all safety regulations. Schedule a demo with us today!



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