Cave-ins and slough-offs can be a major risk in the construction industry. Excavations and
trenches must be properly shored or cut back to an acceptable angle of repose; otherwise, there
will be a constant threat of a cave-in and the associated chance of injury or loss of life. A qualified
person must be involved in planning and inspections in order to have a safe excavation or trench
on a project.
Excavation and Trench Planning:
- Are underground utilities located? (Use GPR, Check with utility companies, or property owner.)
- Are there any overhead hazards (i.e., falling rock, soil, or other materials/equipment- less than 2’ away from the edge?)
- Will there be any heavy equipment operating near the excavation or vibration hazards?
- What’s the estimated depth of the excavation?
- How many people will work inside the excavation?
- Is there an escape or rescue plan?
- Has there been a soil analysis to help determine what protections are needed? (sloping, benching, shoring, box, etc.)
- Any excavation with a depth of 5’ feet or more requires protective systems.
- Never store excavated or other materials closer than 2’ from the edge of the excavation.
- The qualified person performs inspections daily and as needed through-out the shift.
- Access/egress, usually ladders, must be provided within 25’ of workers in excavations of 4’ or more in depth.
- During the changing seasons it’s imperative to keep a close eye on your excavation and soil conditions as the weather and soil saturation can have dire consequences!
Unlike most accidents, the cave-in of an excavation usually can be predicted if
closely watched. It is, therefore, critical that a competent person keeps a close
eye on any excavation. Everyone should be removed from the excavation area
should it appear to be unstable.