Workers doing activities in and around trenches and excavations must be alert to the real possibility of a trench cave-in. In most situations, a cave-in is likely to happen if there is no protection and workers should be aware of the specific type of protection they need to keep them safe while working in a trench or excavation. Workers die every year when they are caught in an excavation or trench cave-in.
The FIRST RULE is to never enter an unprotected excavation or trench!
All excavations and trenches must be inspected by a Competent Person before workers enter them.
Excavations more than 5 feet deep must have cave-in protection.
A safe way to enter the excavation or trench is required when it is 4 feet or deeper.
Before workers enter any excavation or trench it must be inspected by a Competent Person and there must be protection from a potential cave-in. Cave-in protection could be provided using any of the systems mentioned below:
Sloping or Sloping System - excavating to form sides of an excavation that are inclined away from the excavation so as to prevent cave-ins.
Benching or Benching System - excavating the sides of an excavation to form one or a series of horizontal levels or steps, usually with vertical or near-vertical surfaces between levels.
Shoring or Shoring System - a structure such as a metal hydraulic, mechanical or timber shoring system that supports the sides of an excavation and which is designed to prevent cave-ins.
Trench Box, Trench Shield or Shield System - a structure that is able to withstand a cave-in and protect workers inside the shield or box. This is an option for almost all soil conditions and excavations and must be installed by trained personnel following the manufacturer's specifications.
In addition to ensuring a written safety program is in place, and implemented, and proper trenching and excavation procedures are followed on every job site, there should be regular safety meetings held to ensure all employees are reminded of safe practices when it comes to trenching and excavation.
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