Common Safety Concerns in Excavation Projects

Safety should always be your first concern when beginning any construction project. While drawing plans and scheduling crews is important, excavation safety should be a major part of your overall plan. The equipment and tools used during excavation are large and dangerous if not used properly, and we know the ways to go about it safely, with everyone involved educated and on the same page. 

Below are some general excavation safety guidelines to abide by:

  1. Stay away from unprotected trench and excavation areas. Falls on excavation sites are extremely dangerous and possibly fatal.
  2. Complete daily inspections of the site before any work begins. This includes inspecting the safety measures you’ve put in place to protect those working for you.
  3. Be apprised of the weather conditions each day and what it could mean for what you have planned on the job. Be mindful of possible lightning storms coming and workers who could be on equipment that would be dangerous in such conditions.
  4. Watch where you keep your heavy equipment and make sure they are not near trench edges. It only takes a minute for the ground to give way and for equipment to fall – possibly on people below.
  5. Know where the utilities are on your land and avoid them, especially when using heavy machinery.
  6. If there is a raised load, work somewhere else and avoid walking under it if possible. Make sure other workers on the job site do the same.
  7. Conduct atmosphere tests. Beware of toxic gasses overtaking oxygen levels, making it very dangerous for workers and their respiratory systems. If levels are bad enough, serious and even fatal consequences can occur.
  8. Take protective measures like shielding, benching, and sloping shoring to keep the hazardous movement of dirt to a minimum.
  9. Appoint a competent person to take charge of safety checks and inspections. This employee should also have the authority to make immediate decisions to keep workers safe from present hazards, especially in emergency situations.

Understanding the Risks of Excavation Work

There are definite excavation hazards involved with moving earth around, especially for large commercial builds. Depending on the excavation sites, types of soil, and type of excavation you’re planning, the risks of excavation work will change. Some of the main risks you’ll most likely encounter (and should plan to avoid) with excavations include:

  • Devastating falls involving workers and equipment
  • Equipment (big or small) injuring workers 
  • Excavation site collapsing or falling in
  • Existing structures falling into the excavation site or falling in place because they have not been strengthened or thoroughly inspected before digging began. This one can end up costing you a lot of money and time, not to mention very unhappy clients.
  • Damage to underground cables or lines, including power, gas, cable, and more. This kind of damage can be frustrating for many in the surrounding area but can also be deadly if workers hit the wrong line.

Pre-Excavation Safety Measures and Planning

You cannot underestimate the importance of planning ahead, especially when it comes to safety. “Plan your dig, then dig your plan,” many say. If you come upon something that has not been planned correctly or forgotten altogether during excavation or any other part of the construction project, stop what you’re doing and plan or replan. 

As you plan ahead, take note of the following pre-excavation safety measures:

  1. Understanding the job site. Know your site inside and out (literally). Know the soil type you’re working with. Is it sandy, rocky, or predominantly made of clay? What existed at your excavation site before you? Was another building there, or was it an orchard? There are so many possibilities and potential impacts that the land has undergone that you should know about. Survey the area and gather all the information you can before digging.
  2. Plan for erosion, just in case. This isn’t ideal, but it is very common. Do what you can to slow or stop erosion if at all possible. 
  3. Ensure nearby structures are stable, and brace anything that might need extra stability. If needed, safely remove structures that could be a safety threat now or in the near future as you excavate and build around them.
  4. Make a safety plan and educate all workers on protocol and safety measures that will be followed. Train all workers in OSHA standards and other protective measures you are taking.

The Importance of Protective Gear For Excavation Workers

OSHA has strict requirements about how to protect workers during excavation and other construction processes. Protective gear is one way to help provide another layer of protection for your workers. This gear must always be worn while on the job site, even on hot, sunny days. Some examples include:

  • High-visibility vests (especially for those that are working around traffic)
  • Hard hat
  • Protective gloves
  • Hearing protection for use around loud equipment
  • Safety glasses
  • Fall protection equipment like harnesses and ropes.
  • Respiratory protection
  • Job-specific protective clothing
  • Sturdy boots or other shoes
  • Long pants and shirts with sleeves

How to Identify and Mitigate Hazards During Excavation

Trenching and excavation work can be extremely hazardous, which is why it’s vital to always be looking out for dangers and mitigating them immediately. Some safety precautions you can take may consist of:

  • Placing barriers around the excavation site to keep people from falling in.
  • Using fencing to block off areas where people should not be walking or could possibly fall.
  • Supporting sides of the excavation area to avoid collapsing and injuring workers or other bystanders.
  • Keeping vehicles and large equipment away from the excavation area. Utilize barriers to help mitigate this hazard.
  • Marking and protecting underground services by utilizing pipes or avoiding the space completely (or as much as possible).
  • Keeping pumping equipment close in case water seeps into the excavation site and must be removed to a safe place. It’s a good idea to also have a plan for where this safe place is in advance!
  • Placing warning signs for equipment operators to see. Such signs may be used to help warn drivers/operators of their proximity to excavations.
  • Conducting regular, daily inspections of the excavation site to ensure safety for all involved.

Best Practices for Preventing Excavation-Related Accidents and Injuries

Creating an excavation safety work environment will save you, your workers, and other subcontractors from unnecessary hazards on the job. As an owner, general contractor, project manager, or foreman, it is up to you to ensure a safe place to work. 

Mikula Contracting has you covered when it comes to completing excavation projects for commercial or residential projects. Safety is a must in our line of work, and we are trained, equipped, and ready to act on all safety plans you may have, as well as our own. In our minds, there are no other options.

If you’re ready to take advantage of our best practices that are tried and true for quality and safety, give Mikula Contracting a call. We excel in our commitment to excavation safety and will deliver a job well done. Don’t risk an accident or injury. Hire a professional excavator company to take care of everything. 

Related Posts