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How to Stay Alive While Trenching

July 13, 2021By Niko Pothitakis

Teams should implement a variety of safety measures to help save lives and keep workers safe during trenching projects. Trenching is vital for many construction projects. It involves digging into dirt to form a narrow passage for workers and equipment. Trenching can be dangerous like other aspects of a construction project. Cave-ins and collapses often leave injuries and death in their paths.

The following are safety tips to help protect teams while trenching.

Implementing Protective Trenching Systems

The right protective systems will keep workers protected from potential construction accidents involving cave-ins, which are often fatal. Generally, protective systems are necessary for trenches that are deeper than five feet, and professional engineers must design these systems for trenches deeper than 20 feet.

One common type of system used is shoring. This system consists of timber, hydraulic systems, or mechanical components to keep the trench walls from caving in. Additionally, sloping and benching are often used to create an angled slope and/or steps to travel up and down the trench wall. Trench shields are also used to shield workers from debris in the event of a collapse.

Inspecting Trenches Regularly

To help minimize the risk of cave-ins and collapses, professionals must routinely inspect the trench. Inspections should be performed before work begins and repeatedly throughout the day as work takes place. 

It’s also important to inspect the trench following any type of natural event such as a storm. If any other work takes place such as blasting, inspection will be required again. 

Upon inspection, if any issues are discovered with the integrity of the trench, safety measures must be in place before work in the trench can resume.

Testing the Atmosphere

If a trench is deeper than four feet in a potentially hazardous atmosphere, atmospheric testing will be required. Testing can detect dangerous levels of oxygen deficiency along with the presence of methane or other dangerous gases.

If a test finds that hazards are present, employers will need to supply workers with protective gear such as basket stretchers and breathing devices.

These are some of the many ways in which employers and workers can create a safe trenching environment. With the right safety measures in place, employees can avoid work-related injuries and deaths.