Workers doing activities in and around trenches and excavations must be alert to the real possibility of a trench cave-in. In most situations, a cave-in is likely to happen if there is no protection and workers should be aware of the specific type of protection they need to keep them safe while working in a trench or excavation. Workers die every year when they are caught in an excavation or trench cave-in.
The FIRST RULE is to never enter an unprotected excavation or trench!
All excavations and trenches must be inspected by a Competent Person before workers enter them.
Excavations more than 5 feet deep must have cave-in protection.
A safe way to enter the excavation or trench is required when it is 4 feet or deeper.
OSHA Standard 1926.652(a)(1) Each employee in an excavation shall be protected from cave-ins by an adequate protective system designed in accordance with paragraph (b) or (c) of this section except when: (i) Excavations are made entirely in stable rock; (ii) Excavations are less than 5 feet (1.52 m) in depth and examination of the ground by a competent person provides no indication of a potential cave-in.
Before workers enter any excavation or trench it must be inspected by a Competent Person and there must be protection from a potential cave-in. Cave-in protection could be provided using any of the systems mentioned below:
Sloping or Sloping System - excavating to form sides of an excavation that are inclined away from the excavation so as to prevent cave-ins.
Benching or Benching System - excavating the sides of an excavation to form one or a series of horizontal levels or steps, usually with vertical or near-vertical surfaces between levels.
Shoring or Shoring System - a structure such as a metal hydraulic, mechanical or timber shoring system that supports the sides of an excavation and which is designed to prevent cave-ins.
Trench Box, Trench Shield or Shield System - a structure that is able to withstand a cave-in and protect workers inside the shield or box. This is an option for almost all soil conditions and excavations and must be installed by trained personnel following the manufacturer's specifications.
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