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Trenching and Excavation


Trenching and excavation hazards are addressed in specific standards for the construction industry.

OSHA Standards

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.

Note: Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

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.


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 Bulletins (SHIBs), (HIBs)

Other Resources

  • 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  3.2(2002, Fall). Also available as a 457 KB PDF, 6 pages. 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.

  • Excavations. OSHA Publication 2226, (2002). Also available as a 533 KB PDF, 44 pages. Highlights key elements of 29 CFR 1926.650, shows ways to protect employees against cave-ins, and describes safe work practices for employees.

  • Construction - Pocket Guide. OSHA Publication 3252-05N, (2005). Also available as a 285 KB PDF, 36 pages.

  • 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.

Additional Information

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 [3 MB PDF, 34 pages]. Oregon-OSHA Workshop 302. Provides information on excavation work in construction, discussing specific hazards resulting from excavation work and requirements for protective systems.
    • Excavations [2 MB PDF, 40 pages]. 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.

Other Resources

  • Construction. OSHA's Alliance Program. This is one of OSHA's Strategic Management Plan Focus Areas.

  • 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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