OSHA’s Rules on Trenching & Excavation

What is a Competent Person?

Trenching and Excavation can be a very dangerous task if the OSHA standards are not followed correctly. Many hazards can be associated with excavating such as cave-ins, equipment or soil crushing workers, falling into the trench, water accumulation, hazardous atmosphere, buried gas lines, and struck-by hazards.

It is very important that all employees on the jobsite are familiar with the 1926.651 & 1926.652 trenching and excavation OSHA standards.

While onsite at an excavation project, there needs to be at least one competent person onsite before any worker enters a trench. The competent person will inspect trenches daily and monitor any changes of the trench. This person shall have extensive knowledge in excavation, and be able to determine any potential hazard and take prompt corrective measures to eliminate or control that hazard.

The Importance of Protective Systems

  • Benching is a type of method where the excavator will dig steps or levels to eliminate the potential of a cave-in. Benching cannot be done in type C soil.
  • Sloping is done by cutting back a portion of the excavation to a certain degree to eliminate a cave-in.
  • Shoring is a type of method that is done by installing hydraulic beams or other equipment to push against the soil to eliminate any soil movements.
  • Shielding is completed by using a trench box that is lowered into the excavation to eliminate any type of cave-in.

Remember This Rule!

5-4-3-2-1 Rule:

Any trench over 5 feet must be protected from a cave-in. A competent person can make the decision that a protective system is needed if under 5 feet.

Remember the ladder:

Any trench greater than 4 feet must have a ladder for exit and egress.

Remember that the ladder must extend at least 3 feet out of the trench in order to allow for easy access.

Don’t forget to keep all spoil piles at least 2 feet back from the excavation or trench.

One competent person must be onsite at all times to determine any hazards and to control or eliminate those hazards.

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