OSHA’s Guide to Being Safe in the Trenches


It goes without saying that the construction field comes with many different dangers, including trenching and excavation. Working in dirt trenches means that there is quite a large danger that soil can rush in from any and all directions, quickly trapping workers underground. In order to prevent this, there are trench boxes, also know has trench box shields, which are steel structures that protect utility workers in a trench, without getting in the way. In general, depending on the trench box sizes, they are constructed within the sidewalls of the trench and have differing thicknesses depending on the risk.

Even though these are made for the construction worker’s protection, OSHA has created a number of guidelines that will help any worker safely handle this equipment. Here is everything to know about trench shields.

First and foremost, never enter a trench unprotected

You will want to make sure that you are protected at all times. Even a trench that is five feet deep can cause an issue, so you will need a trench shoring box wherever you go. Also know the dimensions of your trench, those that are over 20 feet require specific trench box sizes and for it to be designed by a specific engineer.

The different types of protective systems

Know the different types of protective systems for working in trenches, and if you have a question don’t be afraid to ask. Some trench shields require sloping, which means it is angled away from the excavation. When installing your trench shields, keep in mind the type of soil you have, depth of the trench, any changes to the soil because of the weather, the surcharge loads, and what else is happening around the construction site.

General rules

Besides the two previously listed, there are some extra things to keep in mind when dealing with trenches. This includes to keep heavy equipment far away from the edges of the trench so the pressure doesn’t cause them to cave in, inspect trenches before you get in them, and to test for hazardous gasses.

With these tips in mind, you will be set to work safely and properly within your trenches.

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