Shoring is a dangerous business. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA), 25 workers die in a trench-related accident every year. The OSHA also articulates that the walls of every trench will eventually collapse; it is merely a matter of time. It is what you do within that time that is so crucial to the safety of the build. But, trenching requires more than simple training.
From cave-ins to full trench collapses, shoring requires a team of professionals that emphasize the importance of safety, as well as a steady hand and head full of knowledge. By acquiring such a team’s services can eliminate many of the risks associated with the common hazards that often lead to major mishaps.
There are guidelines set by the OHSA to keep your excavation team in check. It is crucial to your build that you have daily excavation inspections on these requirements. Not only will it mitigate injuries, but it can save your project from total collapse. Let’s look at each of these requirements and how you can keep your project safe and on-track throughout the entire construction project.
The OSHA Act of 1970 is currently in place “”To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health.”
In recent publications from the OHSA, it states several requirements for employers to regard during an excavation. Some of the key provisions include:
- Members of support systems must be securely connected to prevent sliding, falling, kick-outs, or predictable failure.
- Support systems must be installed and removed in a manner that protects workers from cave-ins and structural collapses and from being struck by members of the support system.
- Members of support systems must not be overloaded.
- Before temporary removal of individual members, additional precautions are required, such as installing other structural members to carry loads imposed on the support system.
- Removal must begin at, and progress from, the bottom of the excavation.
- Backfilling must progress together with the removal of support systems from excavations.
- Employers are responsible for maintaining materials and equipment used for protective systems.
- A competent person must examine any damaged equipment to evaluate its suitability and must remove it from service if it cannot support the intended load requirements.
Furthermore, employers are required to take certain precautions for the safety of their employees. These include:
- Protecting workers from excavated or other materials or equipment that could pose a hazard by falling or rolling inside the excavation by placing and keeping such materials or equipment at least 2 feet (0.61 meters) from the edge and/or by using a retaining device to keep the materials or equipment from falling or rolling into the excavation.
- Providing a warning system (such as barricades, hand or mechanical signals, or stop logs) when mobile equipment is operated adjacent to an excavation, or when such equipment must approach the edge of an excavation, and the operator does not have a clear and direct view of the edge.
- Protecting workers from loose rock or soil that could fall or roll from an excavation face by scaling to remove loose material, installing protective barricades at appropriate intervals, or using other equivalent forms of protection.
- Instituting and enforcing work rules prohibiting workers from working on faces of sloped or benched excavations at levels above other workers unless the workers at the lower levels are adequately protected from the hazards of falling, rolling, or sliding material or equipment.
- Instituting and enforcing work rules prohibiting workers from standing or working under loads being handled by lifting or digging equipment.
- Requiring workers to stand away from vehicles being loaded or unloaded to protect them from being struck by any spillage or falling materials. (Operators may remain inside the cab of a vehicle being loaded or unloaded if the car is equipped,)
These are just a few of the guidelines set by the OHSA. The team you work with should continually examine their worksite for proper management of these rules. By doing so, they will increase the safety of the site, as well as decrease the possibility of a trench-related accident.
Excavation Fall Protection
Fall protection around work zones is another area of the project that your team should address. According to a federal OSHA Letter of Interpretation, fall protection around trenches is not required as long as the excavation was visible.
29 CFR 1926.501(b)(7) provides:
- (i) Each employee at the edge of an excavation 6 feet (1.8m) or more in depth shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, fences, or barricades when the excavations are not readily seen because of plant growth or other visual barrier;
- (ii) Each employee at the edge of a well, pit, shaft, and similar excavation 6 feet (1.8m) or more in depth shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, fences, barricades, or covers.
Under these circumstances, readily visible trenches need not take further measures for fall protection. However, if the trench becomes less distinct, you must have fall protection measurements in place. While this may seem pretty cut and dry, it takes a competent professional to assess the visibility of the excavation at any given time as circumstances vary day-to-day.
Shoring Design Calculations
Another matter to take into account are design calculations. Before any excavation goes underway, a calculated design must account for the entire project. Performing detailed calculations is a complicated matter. The model must account for the entire Earth Retention System and Support System. Without either of these measurements, a whole project can collapse within seconds.
After the initial design, a team must also perform daily external stability checks to make sure the system is calculated correctly. These checks typically include two calculations: passive resistance and rotational stability.
Competent Person Training for Excavations
At Trench Shoring Services, competent professionals perform our daily excavation inspections that include strict safety guidelines. The OHSA also encourages excavation professionals to inspect trenches at the start of each shift, an idea Trench Shoring Services believes in whole-heartedly. With years of experience in our back pockets and a single-eye on workplace safety, we provide our customers with customized trench shoring solutions.
Our team also offers monthly Competent Person Training to all of our current workforce and prospective employees. Training is done in-house at any of our facilities nationwide.
Our instructors will break down the overwhelming confusion of the ‘Excavation Safety’ OSHA regulations, so it is easy and fun to learn.
In these training sessions we cover:
- What is a “Competent Person”?
- OSHA Definitions
- General Requirements
- Protective Systems
- Cave-in Signals
- Soil Classifications
- Acceptable Use of Sloping, Shoring, and Shields
- Understanding Tabulated Data
- Typical Trench Examples
- Solutions for Safe and Efficient Compliance