Trenching and other excavation services are required in most property construction projects. Trenches provide pathways for drainage pipes, water and gas mains, telephone lines and other key utilities for the property. The various trenching, backfilling, grading and levelling services that are required represent the complete excavation process.

Experienced professionals should always handle the construction of trenches as well as other excavation services. Professionals not only make sure your project is done legally, but also that the project is completed safely. There are many hazards that can come about during trenching and other excavation services.

Trenches can cave-in, trapping and injuring employees. Slips and falls can also be made more dangerous when large holes are present. Overhead electrical systems, large machines and other debris can all be present on an excavation site. Let Bob Wallace Excavating handle your excavating needs to ensure the project is completed fully and that all avoidable hazards are completely considered.

Trenching & Excavation Hazards

Trench Cave-Ins

One of the largest and often most dangerous issues with trenching projects are cave-ins. A large trench can completely bury those inside, which in many cases can result in fatalities. Falling soil or debris can also cause serious injuries, even if a full cave-in is not experienced. Most often, smaller jobs that are short in duration can result in cave-ins, due to lacking soil assessments and improper digging processes. A variety of factors including soil types, moisture, trench depth, vibrations and much more can lead to cave-ins.

Factors That Define Trench Stability

An unstable trench is the root cause of cave-ins, though the instability can be sourced to several different factors. Here are 9 factors that will determine the stability of a given trench:

  • How the support systems are installed
  • The quality and state of the soil
  • The weather conditions while the trench is exposed
  • The level of vibration from tools working within the trench
  • The depth of the trench
  • Duration the trench is left unfilled
  • The amount of weight and traffic found around the trench
  • Previously filled trenches or disturbed soil can be more prone to collapse

Other Hazards

Cave-ins are not the only hazards that professionals face during a trenching or excavation project. These are 7 other hazards present on most excavation sites:

  • Falls into trenches or excavated foundations
  • Slips while working in a trench or pit
  • Contact with overhead electrical wires and conductors
  • Toxic materials or air contaminants
  • Flooding or fire hazards
  • Large machines and heavy materials are present
  • Improperly controlled traffic

Protective Measures

Preventing hazards is key to a safe and successful excavation project. All trenches that are more than 4 feet or deeper need to be carefully sloped and protected with a trench shield. Tripping hazards and debris should all be removed. Plan for ways to remove excess moisture. Overhead power lines should be identified and the soil in the trench should be tested for stability. Know all the utility line locations before you dig. Finally, at Bob Wallace Excavating, we always have an emergency plan established if any hazards do arise.

Excavation Project Notifications

Excavation projects of a certain size require a Notice of Project before any digging can commence. A project requires notifications when the project fees exceed $50,000 when workers are planned to enter the trench, when the trench is more than 30 metres long, when the trench is more than 1.2 metres deep, or when the trench has been designed by an engineer. A Notice of Project outline several factors including:

  • Marked Utilities
  • Marked Adjacent Structures
  • Soil Testing
  • Wall Stability
  • Outlined Equipment
  • Work Space Requirements
  • Fall Protection Measures
  • Protective Systems
  • Entry & Exit Points

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