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Trench Safety Tips for Construction Workers

Trench safety is an important consideration at construction sites. But, workers who understand the hazards of trenching and excavation can minimize the risk of cave-ins and other worksite dangers.

What Is the Difference Between an Excavation and a Trench?

OSHA defines an excavation as a manmade cavity, cut, or depression in the earth’s surface created by removal of earth. Comparatively, OSHA defines a trench as a narrow underground excavation that has a maximum width of 15 ft. and tends to have a depth that exceeds its width.

Cave-ins are the most prominent risk associated with excavations and trenches, according to OSHA. In addition, OSHA points out that construction workers may be exposed to falls, falling loads, and other hazards any time they complete tasks in excavations or trenches.

Trenching and Excavation Safety Tips

Construction companies must comply with OSHA’s trenching and excavation requirements. In doing so, they can implement the proper measures to protect their workers against trenching and excavation dangers.

Furthermore, there are several things that construction workers can do to protect themselves when they work in trenches or excavations, including:

Avoid Entering an Unprotected Trench: Construction workers should only enter a trench after a worksite job safety analysis has been performed.

Leverage Appropriate Safety Systems: Sloping, shoring, and shielding are among the protective systems that construction workers can use to protect themselves against trench and excavation accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

Ensure Entry and Exit Points Are in Place: Trench and excavation entry and exit points must be established based on the number of construction workers at a worksite; these points should be clearly marked and easy to access.

Have a Competent Person on Hand: OSHA stipulates that a “competent person” must inspect a trench to verify its safety; if this individual identifies any hazards, these issues must be corrected immediately.

Along with using the aforementioned tips, construction workers who perform tasks in trenches or excavations must:

– Keep forklifts and other heavy equipment away from the edge of a trench

– Know where any underground utilities are located near a worksite

– Perform tests to determine if low oxygen, hazardous fumes, and toxic gases are present

– Avoid working under raised loads

– Inspect trenches at the start of each work shift

– Evaluate trenches after a rainstorm

– Ensure surcharge loads remain at least 2 ft. from trench edges

Finally, construction companies that use forklifts near trenches or excavations should enroll their workers in an OSHA certification training program. In fact, with the forklift certification safety training program available from, construction workers can quickly and easily become OSHA-certified forklift operators.

FLC’s forklift certification safety training program teaches construction workers about all aspects of forklift safety and can be completed in as little as one hour. To learn more about our program or to enroll your workers in it, please contact us online or call us today at (888) 278-8896.

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