Excavation and trenching are often required on construction sites to literally lay the groundwork for a project.Whether it’s creating a water system, gas mains, or telephone lines, by creating trenches, the project can have the necessary underground infrastructure installed. Although trenches are vital to a project, they are also a significant hazard as well.
In this article, we will feature both the risks and solutions for construction professionals working in trenches. If you are a construction professional and in need of legal advice, please contact one of our Tennessee OSHA defense lawyers today.
What is the Difference Between an Excavation and a Trench?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines an excavation as any “man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression” in the ground; whereas, a trench is considered a type of excavation in the surface level of the ground that is very narrow with “a depth that is greater than its width.” Because of the often steep depth to a trench, there are many dangers present for the workers performing tasks within this confined space.
The Dangers of Trenches
According to OSHA, approximately two workers are killed every month in a collapsed trench. Cave-ins are the primary concern for trench injuries and deaths. In fact, OSHA states that one cubic yard of soil is approximately the same density as an automobile. Along with cave-in deaths, other serious hazards include electrical hazards from power lines and natural gas utilities, trenches that are located near roadways, and workers that utilize heavy machinery or handle materials in a confined space. It’s critical that construction professionals understand the most common hazards in regard to trenches to determine the best solutions.
Trench Safety Solutions
The primary step a construction management team should take to ensure the safety of their workers is to perform a soil analysis. This helps determine the right approach to the project by either creating a sloped or benched design to the trench. The design of the trench is critical as it offers the right stability to ensure that the trench does not cave-in. Another option is to install posts, beams, or planking for support as well. In some cases, the trench may need a “trench box” to shield the workers from a potential cave-in. Lastly, it’s important to always have an accessible exit area for the workers in case of an emergency.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.