10 Critical Trenching Safety Tips

September 22, 2021 4:34 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

As you likely know, trenching is an important part of construction. Removing dirt so other components can be replaced is one of the first steps to getting the project underway—but excavation safety is a crucial part of the process. Whether you’re laying pipes, utility lines or other wires, it’s important that everyone follows basic trenching safety tips.

Here’s what you need to know when you’re beginning a new project:

  1. Find the utility lines first: Your municipality undoubtedly has ways to locate utility lines—including calling 811 in any state. This will ensure your trenching project does not disrupt local utility lines, creating a problem for the entire neighborhood and delaying your project.
  2. You need a protective system: When you’re trenching, you need to be aware of the possibility of cave-ins, and all the terrible consequences they could have for your workers. Make sure that you take precautions to protect anyone working in the area.
  3. Don’t forget your atmospheric testing: Before you start digging, you’ll need to conduct atmospheric testing. The last thing you want is to dig up the dirt and find yourself presented with hazardous gas or other safety issues.
  4. Install safe access and egress points: If you’re digging trenches deeper than four feet, you’ll need ladders and other access and egress points. This protects your workers and ensures they can escape if a hazardous condition is discovered.
  5. Watch out for falling loads: You probably already know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires everyone to stay away from lifted and/or moving loads. Be sure your workers understand that they need to steer clear.
  6. Consider alternative trenching methods: If traditional trenching isn’t working for your project, consider other methods. Directional boring, pipe ramming, utility tunneling and other alternative trenching ideas can get the same results with less risk.
  7. Install the right safety signs: Your workplace’s safety depends on installing the appropriate signs—especially so workers understand the risks they’re taking on by entering the site. It will also ensure that neighbors or other curious people don’t accidentally hurt themselves on your worksite.
  8. Designate a competent person: A “competent person” is a term used by OSHA. It refers to a person responsible for designing, inspecting and supervising the trench excavation. They require a high level of training and knowledge in order to take on this job, so choose carefully.
  9. Follow OSHA rules: Speaking of OSHA, your worksite should adhere to OSHA rules to the letter. These rules exist to help protect you and your workers, so be sure to review them and make plans to follow them during each project.
  10. Inspect your trenches regularly: Finally, make sure your “competent person” inspects the trenches according to a regular schedule. This is the best way to ensure your project is going as planned—and that it’s safe enough for your crew.

For more excavation safety tips, or when you need excavation equipment and services, visit or call Estes Excavating Inc. today.

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