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The Dangers of Surface Encumbrances During Excavation

Surface Encumbrances Can Be a Hazard During Excavation

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Excavations

Excavations

Trenching and excavation work poses many hazards such as cave-ins, equipment struck-by incidents, potential falls, and striking underground utilities.

OSHA Standard 1926.650(b) "Excavation" means any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in an earth surface, formed by earth removal.

OSHA regulations consider any digging activity as excavating. Anyone who is doing any kind of excavating activity MUST call 811 from anywhere in the country a few days prior to working on excavations or trenches.

Excavations done on or near roads, near buildings and other structures may put workers at additional risks from surface encumbrances. Surface encumbrances could be any existing structure that could be made unstable by the excavation work.

Examples of surface encumbrances include:

  • Excavating underneath curbs, sidewalks, or roads
  • Excavating near power, utility poles, or trees
  • Excavating near a residence, building, wall, or fence line
Excavation on Road Creates Surface Encumbrance
The concrete road could be considered a surface encumbrance. Note the excavation under the road requires support.

Surface encumbrances must always be supported or braced to protect workers.

OSHA Standard 1926.651(a) Surface encumbrances. All surface encumbrances that are located so as to create a hazard to employees shall be removed or supported, as necessary, to safeguard employees.

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