Excavation is one of the most intensive jobs when it comes to construction or demolition. It takes acute awareness of the situational hazards and the goings-on at all times. It requires astuteness and being thorough because there are a lot of things to review, double-check, and discuss for safety concerns. Communication is also key, as excavation isn’t a solo job.
In fact, commercial excavation services require the effort of a team. Mr. Tree’s excavation team is trained to do excavation, catwork, lot clearing, logging, demolition, and tree removal. It’s a job that absolutely requires a level head, a trained approach, and experience.
There are actually quite a few things that could be safety concerns on an excavation site. We’ll explore the hazards and risks a bit more and discover the best ways to see an excavation project through.
OSHA characterizes a “person conducting a business or undertaking” as a PCBU. Those who’re trained and certified to run operations on an excavation site need to be sure to follow procedural guidelines. So guidelines are avoiding costly or dangerous mistakes.
Initial Steps to Safe Excavation
The first thing that a PCBU needs to do is identify hazards that pose a risk of harm or injury.
Being on top of the identification process is a major component of managing risks and working toward a smooth and safe excavation process. Taking the time to identify hazards initially and control the environment. Before any of the work begins – is the first task of preparing for the job.
Sometimes, it may not always be possible to run all review efforts before the work begins. It’s important to have a set list of things to tend to and control so they can be followed up on at the earliest opportunity.
A trench must have a protective system in place before you enter. Don’t go into a trench if it isn’t protected! Trenches that are 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep or greater must have a protective system.
The only exception to this rule is if the entire trench is built into stable rock. Trenches that are 20 feet (6.1 meters) deep or greater must have a protective system. That protective system is designed by a registered and professional engineer.
Hazards to Consider for People
Falling into an Excavation
This may sound like something you could easily avoid, but one can never assume things, particularly on a jobsite with a deep pit. In a world where people are easily distracted, the ability to pay attention and see things through with forethought and care is deeply valuable. Falling into the excavation pit can lead to multiple injuries and potentially be fatal.
Getting Trapped Under a Fallen Excavation
One of the first things the PCBU is required to review is the status of the excavation sites. This can be especially true after a big storm. Because rainwater or other debris might have undermined the safety of the dig. A risk of working in an excavation is that the walls of soil and matter around you have the potential to crumble and fall. That fact can ultimately trapping an individual underneath.
Cave-ins are of greatest risk to workers and are much more likely to happen than any other sort of excavation-related accident. Trench collapses cause hundreds of injuries and dozens of fatalities each year.
While in an excavation trench, there’s a risk of being struck by an object that has fallen from above. Part of any preliminary walk-through should verify that items and mobile equipment aren’t parked too close to the excavation trench.
There’s a risk of exposure to contaminants or polluted atmospheres where oxygen levels can be dangerously low in the environment.
We all need air to breathe, period, and in specialized jobs, such as excavation, this is a key hazard to be aware of.
Walk-Throughs and Inspections
Both at the beginning and the end of the day, there needs to be a person responsible for inspecting the site, the equipment, and all the systems that are in place.
This protects both workers and the site and will give the opportunity to introduce any new measures to prevent future risks of newly observed issues or concerns.
Competency for safety concerns
It’s crucial to have a competent person making sure that all the boxes are ticked. Daily review of the trenches and site are required by law. There are also rules and laws regarding excavating on certain lands.
This individual needs to be sure to inspect and visit the trenches and site each day before individuals go to work. All trenches need to be proofed and cleared of hazards as a measure for safety concerns. The competency of a person can be determined by learning if the individual is able to see current and potential hazards. Plus, they must be able to take action to solve and correct the problem. Additionally, they should be capable of anticipating and prioritizing the safety of workers and the team by not putting them in dangerous, hazardous, or toxic situations.
Methods of Identifying Existing Hazards
One of the first ways of identifying potential hazards is to do physical inspections wherein the workplace is observed and assessed. These risk areas need to be noted to prevent someone from getting hurt. Additionally, there needs to be some forethought into how other activities near or around the site could contribute to hazards.
There are also tasks that can be analyzed and noted using checklists, in addition to communication. By teaming up with workers, there’s a greater advantage in gaining insight into issues that may be of concern to them. Establishing an analysis process will make sure things are transcribed and communicated all around and that no one is left in the dark.
There are prescribed standards and guidelines for this sort of work and in addition to verifying that everyone is up-to-date in their training. It’s possible to prevent accidents by making sure everyone has access to risk and hazard management information.