8 Safety Tips for Trenching in California

Working in the construction industry can have benefits and be dangerous at the same time. Depending on what type of work you do at the construction site, you could face serious risks each time you go to work in the morning. Our Sacramento and Elk Grove construction accident attorney, John M. O'Brien, provides eight safety tips for working in trenches in today’s post.

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1. Receive the Proper Training

Safety regulations require everyone who will be in trenches and excavations receive the proper safety training before beginning an assignment. The training should include learning about the dangers involved in excavation and on proper safety precautions. Part of this training should involve how to design trench systems safely, how to prevent cave-ins, and how to handle emergency situations in the trenches.

2. Never Enter Unprotected Trenches That Are Five Feet or Deeper

Trenches five feet or deeper have to be protected using any of the following protective systems. It is important for you and anyone else working in the trenches ensure they are adequately protected by a slope or bench trench walls, shore trench walls with supports, or shield trench walls with trench boxes. All trench protective systems must be planned or checked by a competent person or an engineer.

In many cases, protective systems must be used even for trenches that are less than five feet deep, to ensure that they do not collapse onto workers.

3. Keep Materials Away from the Edges of Excavations

Either set up a barricade at the edge, place materials and equipment at least two feet away from the sides of the trench or do both. If the construction site does not allow for two feet of distance, soil removed may need to be transported to another location until work is done.

4. Locate Underground Utilities Before Excavation Begins

Services such as gas, electrical, telephone, and water lines must be located before crews start digging. Breaks in gas, electrical, and water services can cause serious injuries, even deaths. Hitting a gas line can cause an explosion while hitting an underground electrical line can result in electrocution. A sudden rush of water gets released when a water line breaks, washing out support systems and causing a cave-in.

5. Inspect Trenches Daily

Trenches need to be inspected often to ensure there are no hazards and to ensure the safety of all those working in them. The best time to inspect trenches is in the morning before work begins and after events that may cause changes to the trench, especially if the job site is left empty in the overnight hours. An inspection will help you identify hazards in and around the excavation and promptly correct those hazards.

6. Always Wear PPE

Never enter a trench without wearing your personal protective equipment, or PPE. This gear includes safety boots, a hard hat, goggles, gloves, respiratory protection against hazardous atmospheres and any other equipment that can keep you safe while in the trenches.

7. Never Work Beneath Suspended Loads of Materials

Don’t stand or work under digging or loaded lifting equipment. And don’t operate the equipment unless you’re trained and authorized to do so.

8. Test Atmospheric Conditions before Work Begins

When setting up trenches that are more than four feet deep, you need to make sure they are entirely safe.

If tests reveal toxic gases, low oxygen, or hazardous fumes, no one should enter the trench.

If you have been injured in a Sacramento or Elk Grove construction accident, contact us today at 916.714.8200 to schedule a free consultation.