Construction Workers, Follow These 5 Trenching Safety Tips
09 Sep 2021
Trenching is vital to any construction project. It entails digging and taking out the dirt on the ground, creating a narrow depression. Companies then use the created trench for a range of engineering and civil projects, including laying pipes and telephone wires.
Although trenching is usually part of regular construction operations, it is a risky job. According to an article from Equipment World, trench-collapse fatalities plagued the construction sector in 2020. Given the dangers associated with trenching, construction workers and managers need to follow best safety practices, as well as standards the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set.
Here are important trenching tips that construction workers should follow to stay safe on the job:
Check Heavy Equipment Before Use
Heavy equipment inspections combine the collection of data, examination, analysis and hands-on testing for a thorough look at the condition of the machine. A comprehensive inspection is a crucial preventive way to make sure equipment is safe for use. If they’re found unsafe, workers should report the matter to the heavy equipment rental provider or seller for proper action.
Broken or damaged equipment requires immediate repair to avoid trenching-related problems. Excavators and other trenching equipment must have the following:
• A windshield along with windshield wipers in good condition
• A horn or a similar audible warning device
• Working brake lights, taillights and headlights
• A properly functioning brake system, including parking and emergency brake
Inspect Bridges and Walkways
Having a series of walkways and bridges that span the top of a trench that construction workers are digging is quite normal. These paths, however, should adhere to specific codes and guidelines.
They have to be wide enough so that they are safe to walk on. What’s more, they should have a certain number of feet above the base of the trench. Fall protection and guardrails may also be necessary depending on the situation.
All of these protective measures should be in place before construction workers use any bridge or walkway on the construction site. The goal is to prevent accidents from occurring instead of reacting to them when they do happen.
Keep a Competent Person on Site
A competent employee is a must on any construction site. A competent person, according to OSHA, is an individual designed by the company for supervising, inspecting and designing the trench. This person should be a professional engineer and must have undergone training in identifying current and possible dangers, as well as eliminating hazards promptly.
Trenching safety is highly dependent on these competent individuals due to the highly technical nature of trenching. Given this, a high level of experience or training is required for these appointed employees.
Perform Atmospheric Testing
When construction workers are busy digging trenches, they may run the risk of coming into contact with hazardous atmospheres. This can produce a highly dangerous environment for them. Toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, may cause oxygen deficiency and other serious health problems. Flammable gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, can easily ignite and cause fires that can kill people and destroy property.
An effective way to approach these types of situations is to conduct an air test before starting the trenching process. If the results show problems with the air quality in the construction site, crew members need to use respirators and property ventilation equipment. What’s more, workers need to keep retesting the air to monitor changes and implement safety measures as needed.
Use Alternative Trenching Methods
Given that trenching is an important but dangerous aspect of construction, workers should never want to do more than what’s required. Employees should consider alternative methods of excavating for improved safety.
Examples include the following:
This method necessitates lining plates to shore the interior structure. Workers can perform the tunneling process using a boring machine or by hand.
Utility tunnels are suitable for colder climates, as well as on big commercial and industrial sites to prevent disrupting vehicular or aboveground pedestrian traffic.
This involves hammering a pipe into the ground with the help of a percussive instrument. It’s ideal for surfaces and bigger pipes that may have difficulty settling when workers use other trenchless methods.
This uses a machine that bores into the ground at an angle without disturbing much of the surface. Workers first create a tiny pilot hole for direction. They then enlarge the borehole to the size that will fit the pipe. After that, workers pull the pipe through the hole.
Directional boring helps get rid of most of the dangers present with trenching.
Although eliminating all danger from digging trenches is impossible, companies can take steps to prevent or minimize accidents from occurring. Keep in mind these five tips to keep employees safe as they work in trenches.