OSHA Trenching and Excavation Requirements

Image courtesy of http://www.mo.nrcs. usda.gov.

Safety Information for Water and Wastewater System Operators

By Bill Clark

Trench cave-ins can happen in seconds without warning, with no time to escape in the majority of cases.

Soil is an extremely heavy mate- rial. A cubic yard of soil (3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet), which contains 27 cubic feet of material, may weigh more than 2,700 pounds. That is nearly one and a half tons (the equivalent weight of a car) in a space less than the size of the aver- age office desk.

Furthermore, wet soil, rocky soil or rock is usually heavier. The human body cannot support such heavy loads without being severely injured.

Let’s review OSHA regulations that cover Trenching and Excavation, 29 CFR, 1926.650, 651 and 652.

1. OSHA requirements state that if the trench is 5 feet or more in-depth some type of cave-in protection is absolutely required.

2. A person designated as qualified and competent to rec- ognize and evaluate hazards must be present.

3. If the excavation is 20 feet or more in depth a profes- sional engineer is required to evaluate the soil and determine cave-in protection before any- one enters the excavation, 29 CFR 1926.652 (b)(c).

These rules are there to save your life. Think about your family the next time you’re thinking about jumping into a trench without cave-in protection, even for a few minutes.

No water or wastewater line repair is worth your life.


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