Excavation Safety Tips

Surface encumbrances

All excavation surface encumbrances that are located so as to create a hazard to employees must be removed or supported, as necessary, to safeguard employees.

Underground installations

The estimated location of utility installations, such as sewer, telephone, fuel, electric, water lines, or any other underground installations that reasonably may be expected to be encountered during excavation work, must be determined prior to opening an excavation. In addition to notifying your safety officer, facilities must contact utility companies or owners, within established or customary local response times, advise them of the proposed work, and ask them to establish the location of the utility underground installations prior to the start of actual excavation. When utility companies or owners cannot respond to a request to locate underground utility installations within 24 hours (unless a longer period is required by state or local law), or cannot establish the exact location of these installations, employers may proceed with caution and provide detection equipment or other acceptable means to locate utility installations. When excavation operations approach the estimated location of underground installations, the exact location of the installations must be determined by safe and acceptable means. While the excavation is open, underground installations must be protected, supported or removed as necessary to safeguard all employees.

bull dozer for excavation

Access and egress

Structural ramps that are used solely by employees, as a means of access or egress from excavations, must be designed by a designated Competent Person. Structural ramps used for access or egress of equipment must be designed by a Competent Person qualified in structural design, and must be constructed in accordance with the design. Ramps and runways constructed of two or more structural members must have the structural members connected together to prevent displacement.

The following must be considered for access and egress:

• Structural members used for ramps and runways must be of uniform thickness.

• Cleats or other appropriate means used to connect runway structural members must be attached to the bottom of the runway or must be attached in a manner to prevent tripping.

• Structural ramps used in lieu of steps must be provided with cleats or other surface treatments on the top surface to prevent slipping.

• A means of egress from trench excavations must be provided. A stairway, ladder, ramp or other safe means of egress must be located in trench excavations that are 4 feet (1.22 m) or more in depth so as to require no more than 25 feet (7.62 m) of lateral travel for employees.

• Exposure to vehicular traffic

• Employees exposed to public vehicular traffic must be provided with, and must wear, warning vests or other suitable garments marked with or made of reflectorized or high-visibility material.

• Exposure to falling loads No employee must be permitted underneath loads handled by lifting or digging equipment. Employees must be required to stand away from any vehicle being loaded or unloaded to avoid being struck by any spillage or falling materials. Operators may remain in the cabs of vehicles being loaded or unloaded when the vehicles are equipped, in accordance with OSHA, to provide adequate protection for the operator during loading and unloading operations.

Warning system for mobile equipment

When mobile equipment is operated adjacent to an excavation, or when such equipment is required to approach the edge of an excavation, and the operator does not have a clear and direct view of the edge of the excavation, a warning system must be utilized such as barricades, hand or mechanical signals, or stop logs. If possible, the grade should be away from the excavation.


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