A trench is a man-made cut in the earth of any length, but one that is considerably deeper than it is wide. Because it looks so unassuming, people tend to be less cautious with them and take risks they would not consider on other parts of a construction site. It is for this reason that excavating and working in trenches is considered to be among the most dangerous occupations on a work or construction site, with cave-ins and unexpected flooding the source of untold injuries and deaths. The safety of on-site workers is paramount, so here are three tips designed to keep employees safe in the trenches.
Install protective systems
The most important precaution to take is to install a protective system around and within your trench. A safety specialist like Mabey Hire has an extensive range of products to secure your excavation site and ensures workers and onlookers aren’t put in unnecessary danger. For example, you should consider installing aluminium or steel frames to shore up the side of the trenches, reduce slippage and stop cave-ins. You might also consider steel or rubber ground covers in and around the trench to reduce mud and slush around the work area. Before making your choice, always consult an expert. A number of complicated factors such as soil composition, residue and water content will help determine what system to use.
Be trench aware
The most important thing is to appoint a ‘competent person’ to supervise activities around the trench. They should be fully trained in trench excavation work, with a substantial knowledge of soil composition and its reaction under excavation. Do not climb into a trench if you don’t think it is safe. The deeper the trench, the more important it is to have a protective system installed by a registered professional or engineer against cave-ins. If you are in a protected trench and you think something is wrong with the system, or it is filling with water faster than it should be, get out and report it to a supervisor. Safety on a work site is everyone’s responsibility. But the greatest responsibility we have is to ourselves and families – and an obligation to come home from work alive.
Follow some general rules
Like many things in life, a lot of the precautions you can take to keep safe in a trench come down to common sense. Some basic rules include:
- Do not allow heavy equipment to get to close to the edge.
- Provide an area at least a metre from the trench to dump excavated soil and spoil.
- Identify any underground utilities before digging.
- Surround the trench with barriers to stop people falling in.
- Inspect the trench for movement or other problems at the beginning of each shift, after rainstorms or after any other activity that may affect the stability of the trench walls.
Working in a trench is like being employed on any part of the worksite. There are two-fold and it is important to be aware of them. Follow the rules set out by occupational health and safety regulations, coupled with a bit of your common sense, and most problems should be avoided.