As heavy equipment operators, someday you may be called upon to do trench work. While fairly common, it can be dangerous work if not done carefully.
First, here are some of the dangers of trench work.
- Cave-ins or collapses
- Equipment or excavated soil falling on workers
- Falling into the trench
- Flooding or water accumulation.
- Exposure to a hazardous atmosphere
- Contact with buried service lines
- Contact with overhead electrical lines.
- Slips, trips, and falls as workers climb on and off equipment
- Being struck by moving machinery, or by falling or flying objects.
- Hazards related to materials handling
As you can see, many of these dangers are accidental and somewhat easily preventable with careful planning. Let’s talk about 4 things that need to be done to help trench work stay safe.
Trenches are defined by the fact that they are deeper than they are wide, which means by definition, they are hard to get out of. By ensuring that there are safe entrances and exits from the trench, you are one step closer to safety for all workers involved.
Cave-in protection is also very important when it comes to trench safety. While cave-ins might seem haphazard and unavoidable, with proper planning, soil condition evaluations, and water diversion in case of accumulation, you can help avoid them.
Excavation brings with it an inherent risk of hazardous materials. In fact, hazardous atmosphere is one of the main risks in trench work. By hiring a qualified professional to inspect your trench sites for hazardous materials before excavation, before each shift, and throughout the day as needed, you can help your workers avoid possible contamination.
As a heavy equipment operator, you may find yourself as the one digging the trench. Another way to keep yourself and your fellow workers safe is by ensuring that materials removed from the trench are not placed near the edge. The closer these spoils are to the edge, the more likely they can cause a cave-in, potentially injuring workers in the trench.
Trench work is common, and while it can be dangerous, steps can be taken to ensure you and your crew stay safe.