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Back to Guide for Daily Inspection of Trenches and Excavations

Competent Person

Certain activities or safety procedures at a construction site require design, inspection or supervision by a competent person. The OSHA Construction Standard defines a competent person as someone who is:

  • capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or
  • working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and
  • who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.

Trenching and excavation work is dependent on these specialized employees because its highly technical nature, as well as its inherent hazards, require a greater level of training and experience than a normal worker would possess. The items below specify the trenching and excavation activities where a competent person is necessary.

Protective Systems or Equipment

  • Monitoring water removal equipment and operations [29 CFR 1926.651(h)(2)].
  • Inspecting excavations subject to runoff from heavy rains to determine need for diversion ditches, dikes, or other suitable protection [29 CFR 1926.651(h)(3)].
  • Determining cave-in potential to assess need for shoring or other protective system [29 CFR 1926.652(a)(1)].
  • Examining damaged material or equipment used for protective systems to determine its suitability for continued use [29 CFR 1926.652(d)(3)].
  • Classifying soil and rock deposits, by both visual analysis and by testing, to determine appropriate protection; re-classifying, if necessary, based on changing conditions [29 CFR 1926 Subpart P Appendix A].
  • Determining the appropriate slope of an excavation to prevent collapse due to surcharge loads from stored material or equipment, operating equipment, adjacent structures, or traffic, and assuring that such slope is achieved [29 CFR 1926 Subpart P Appendix B (c)(3)(iii)].

Inspecting Trench and Protective Systems

  • Authorizing immediate removal of employees from the hazardous area where evidence of possible cave-in, failure of protective systems, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions exists [29 CFR 1926.651(k)(2)].

Unsafe Access/Egress

  • Designing structural ramps that are used solely by employees as a means of access or egress. Structural ramps used for access or egress of equipment must be designed by a competent person qualified in structural design [29 CFR 1926.651(c)(1)(i)].

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