Trenching and Excavation
Trenching and excavation hazards are addressed in specific standards for the construction industry.
There are twenty-eight OSHA-approved State Plans, operating state-wide occupational safety and health programs. State Plans are required to have standards and enforcement programs that are at least as effective as OSHA's and may have different or more stringent requirements.
This section highlights OSHA standards, the Regulatory Agenda (a list of actions being taken with regard to OSHA standards), directives (instructions for compliance officers), and standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards) related to trenching and excavation.
Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)
- For additional information on specific state plan states or other general standards, see the general industry Trenching and Excavation page.
- Inspection Procedures for Enforcing the Excavation Standard, 29 CFR 1926, Subpart P. CPL 02-00-087 [CPL 2.87], (1990, February 20). Establishes inspection procedures and provides clarification to ensure uniform enforcement of the Excavation Standards.
- Search all available directives.
- 29 CFR 1926.651(i)(1); excavation operations. (2006, January 10).
- Search all available standard interpretations.
Hazards and Possible Solutions
Excavation cave-ins cause serious and often fatal injuries to workers in the United States. The following references aid in recognizing and evaluating trenching and excavation hazards in the workplace.
- OSHA Technical Manual (OTM). OSHA Directive TED 01-00-015 [TED 1-0.15A], (1999, January 20).
- Excavations: Hazard Recognition in Trenching and Shoring. Summarizes the OSHA regulations for trenching.
- Site Assessment Questions
- Construction. OSHA eTool. A Spanish version is also available. Helps workers identify and control the hazards that cause serious construction-related injuries.
- Preventing Worker Deaths from Trench Cave-ins (PDF). Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Solutions, (2011, September). Workers are at risk of death from cave-ins during trenching and excavation activities. NIOSH recommends engineering controls, protective equipment, and safe work practices to minimize hazards for workers.
OSHA Bulletins (SHIBs), (HIBs)
- Hazards Associated with Operating Skid-Steer Loaders with Bypassed and/or Improperly Maintained Safety Devices (PDF). A Spanish version is also available. (2009, January 12).
- Hazards of Auger Drilling (PDF). (2008, April 16).
- Hazards of Inadequately Securing Hydraulic Excavator Buckets When Using Quick Coupling Devices (PDF). (2005, July 22).
- Employees' Exposure to Possible Pinch Point Hazard on Certain Models of Bobcat Skid-Steer Loaders Equipped with Either Loader or Backhoe Attachments Manufactured by the Melroe Company. (1993, August 6).
- Overview for Subpart P Excavations. OSHA Construction Resource Manual. Discusses proper procedure and safe practices in excavation.
- US Department of Labor (DOL), North Aurora, IL Area Office. Aurora OSHA Construction News (PDF). 3.2(2002, Fall). Provides articles discussing trenching contractors not in compliance and their top ten reasons for noncompliance with the trenching standards, reports fatalities and injuries investigated in Illinois, ranks most frequently cited standards, discusses protective systems and the competent person.
- Construction - Pocket Guide (PDF). OSHA Publication 3252-05N, (2005).
- Preventing Injuries and Deaths From Skid Steer Loaders. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 98-117, (1998, February). Describes six deaths involving skid steer loaders and recommends methods for preventing similar incidents.
- Preventing Deaths and Injuries From Excavation Cave-Ins. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (1997, March 11). Provides several case reports, OSHA standards that apply to these cases, and recommended courses of action.
- Excavation Work Special Trade Contractors. US Census Bureau, (1992). Provides samples of available 1992 statistics related to special trade contractors and excavation work.
- Excavation Safety. Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Establishes guidelines and procedures relating to safety on excavation sites at Virginia Tech. Provides information regarding best practices for related hazards and assessments and inspection guidelines.
- Trenching and Shoring Procedures. Oklahoma State University, Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Manuals, (2007, December). Sets forth the official practices required for excavations made by Oklahoma State University employees on property owned by Oklahoma State University.
Related Safety and Health Topics Pages
- Excavation. Oregon-OSHA. Includes publications, fact sheets, workbooks/instructor guides, and a video/DVD library.
- Excavation Safety - Instructor Version (PDF). Oregon-OSHA Workshop 302. Provides information on excavation work in construction, discussing specific hazards resulting from excavation work and requirements for protective systems.
- Excavations (PDF). Oregon-OSHA Publication 2174. Describes differences between excavations and trenches, the role of a competent person, how cave-ins occur, how soil is tested, protective systems, and getting in and out of an excavation. Includes a safe practice checklist.
- Construction. OSHA's Alliance Program. This is one of OSHA's Strategic Management Plan Focus Areas.
- Know What's Below - Call 811 Before You Dig
- Development of Draft Construction Safety Standards for Excavation. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 83-103, (1983).
- Yokel, Felix Y. Soil Classification for Construction Practice. US Department of Commerce. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1980.
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