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Excavation Safety Checklist

Many construction projects require excavation, a job that can be dangerous if safety precautions are not followed.

Even the most experienced workers can become trapped, buried, or injured during excavation. In addition, sides can collapse, workers can fall in, or flooding can trap workers. Therefore, numerous safety precautions must be taken to ensure these hazards are avoided.

Before beginning any excavation project, always “call before you dig.” That number is 811 and provides you with information for your project to avoid damaging underground pipes and electrical lines and keep employees safe from injury.

Calling 811 is the beginning of a process that locates and marks underground infrastructure before excavation. Employers are responsible under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 for providing a safe workplace. OSHA works to ensure the proper conditions are met by setting and enforcing standards, providing education, training and other assistance.

Here’s a great checklist to use whenever excavation work must be completed at a job site.

Excavation Checklist

General Job Site Inspection

  • Have a competent person check excavations, protective systems and adjacent areas each day before work begins.
  • Have someone responsible for removing workers immediately from an excavation site as needed.
  • Remove and support encumbrances.
  • Employees must be protected from loose rock or soil as these could pose hazards such as falling or rolling into an excavation.
  • All employees should wear hard hats.
  • All employees should wear rubber boots or protective covers.
  • Provide a First Aid Kit in a conspicuous location and in the charge of a trained employee.
  • Place materials and equipment at least two feet from the edge of an excavation.
  • Barriers should be provided at all wells, pits, shafts and remotely located excavations.
  • Bridges or walkways over excavations four feet or more depth must be equipped with toe boards ad standard guardrails.
  • All employees should wear vests or other high visibility clothing if exposed to vehicular traffic.
  • Require all employees to stand away from vehicles being loaded or unloaded.
  • If mobile equipment is used near the edge of an excavation, use a warning system.
  • Prohibit employees from going under suspended loads.
  • Prohibit employees from working on the faces of slopes or benched excavations above other employees.

Utilities on Site

  • Contact utility companies in advance of excavations so they can locate lines.
  • Mark exact location of lines.
  • When excavation is open, all underground installations must be protected, supported, or removed.

Access and Egress

  • Ladders used in excavations must be secured and extended three feet above the edge of the trench.
  • Have a competent person design structural ramps used by employees.
  • Have a registered professional engineer design structural ramps for equipment.
  • Ramps must be constructed of uniformly thick materials, cleated together at the bottom and covered with a no-slip surface.
  • Protect employees from cave-ins when entering or exiting excavation sites.

When working on an excavation, these standard safety precautions will save your employees from harm and save your company from fines for failing to properly secure an excavation site.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.