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Page last reviewed: 05/05/2008
Highlights
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Trenching and Excavation

Excavating is recognized as one of the most hazardous construction operations. OSHA revised Subpart P, Excavations, of 29 CFR 1926.650, 29 CFR 1926.651, and 29 CFR 1926.652 to make the standard easier to understand, permit the use of performance criteria where possible, and provide construction employers with options when classifying soil and selecting employee protection methods.

Trenching and excavation hazards are addressed in specific standards for the general industry and marine terminals.

OSHA Standards

This section highlights OSHA standards and directives (instructions for compliance officers) 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.

Frequently Cited Standards

OSHA maintains a listing of the most frequently cited standards for specified 6-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. Please refer to OSHA's Frequently Cited OSHA Standards page for additional information. For Site Preparation Contractors use NAICS code 238910 in the NAICS search box.

Other Highlighted Standards

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

Marine Terminals (29 CFR 1917)

Directives

Construction

For information related to construction, see OSHA's Trenching and Excavation - Construction page.

Hazards and Solutions

The primary hazard of trenching and excavation is employee injury from collapse. Soil analysis is important in order to determine appropriate sloping, benching, and shoring. Additional hazards include working with heavy machinery; manual handling of materials; working in proximity to traffic; electrical hazards from overhead and underground power-lines; and underground utilities, such as natural gas. The following references aid in recognizing and controlling some of the hazards associated with trenching and excavation.

Additional Information

Other Resources

  • Tool Box Safety Topic: Hazard Communication [225 KB PDF*, 7 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2013, September). Also, available as a 585 KB, 6 page Spanish version. Addresses hazard communication issues such as hazardous materials written programs, material safety data sheets, respirators, and hazardous materials identification systems.

  • Backhoe Operation Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel and Operators [109 KB PDF*, 4 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2010, January). Also available as a 176 KB, 5 page Spanish version. Addresses issues associated with the operation of backhoe equipment such as pre-and post-operation procedures and safe operation considerations.

  • Dozer Operation Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel and Operators [151 KB PDF*, 3 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2008, February). Also available as a 124 KB, 4 page Spanish version. Addresses issues associated with the operation of dozer equipment such as pre-and post-operation procedures and safe operation considerations.

  • Excavation and Trenching Best Practices for Operators [146 KB PDF*, 2 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2008, February). Also available as a 121 KB, 2 page Spanish version. Addresses issues associated with excavation and trenching activities such as worksite preparation, personal protective equipment and collapse prevention.

  • Excavation and Trenching Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel [143 KB PDF*, 2 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2008, February). Also available as a 117 KB, 2 page Spanish version. Addresses issues associated with supervision of workers who are engaged in excavation and trenching activities such as worksite preparation, personal protective equipment and collapse prevention.

  • Excavator Operation Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel, Operators, and Workers [157 KB PDF*, 5 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2008, February). Addresses which issues associated with the operation of excavation equipment such as pre-and post-operation procedures, safe operation considerations, and supervisory recommendations.

  • Horizontal Directional Drilling Best Practices for Operators [146 KB PDF*, 3 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2008, February).Also available as a 120 KB, 3 page Spanish version. Addresses issues associated with the operation of horizontal directional drilling equipment such as pre-and post-operation procedures and safe operation considerations.

  • Horizontal Directional Drilling Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel [143 KB PDF*, 2 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2008, February). Also available as a 104 KB, 2 page Spanish version. Addresses issues associated with supervision of workers who are engaged in the operation of horizontal directional drilling equipment such as pre-and post-operation procedures and safe operation considerations.

  • Pressure Testing Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel [139 KB PDF*, 2 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2008, February). Also available as a 115 KB, 2 page Spanish version. Addresses issues associated with the supervision of workers who are engaged in pressure testing activities such as pre-test planning, leak testing, and test medium disposal.

  • Pressure Testing Best Practices for Personnel Conducting the Test [141 KB PDF*, 2 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2008, February). Also available as a 116 KB, 2 page Spanish version. Addresses issues associated with pressure testing activities such as pre-test preparation, connection hazards, and worker protection. 

  • Sideboom Operation Best Practices for Supervisory Personnel, Operators, and Workers [156 KB PDF*, 4 pages]. OSHA and the American Pipeline Contractors Association (APCA) Alliance, (2008, February). Also available as a 154 KB, 5 page Spanish version. Addresses issues associated with the operation of sideboom equipment such as understanding sideboom operational/equipment requirements, and safe operation considerations.

  • Drilled Shaft Installation Safety [10 MB PDF*, 52 pages]. OSHA and the International Association of Foundation Drilling (ADSC) Alliance, (2006, February). Provides OSHA staff, drilled shaft contractors and their employees, geotechnical engineers and general contractors with information about drilled shaft construction equipment and methods, general safety practices and recommendations on how to maintain a safe worksite.

  • Mickle, J.L. "The Mechanics of A Trench Cave-In." Agri-book Magazine/Drainage Contractor 8-9(1991).

  • Stanevich, R.L. and D.C. Middleton. "An Exploratory Analysis of Excavation Cave-in Fatalities." Professional Safety 33.2(1988, February): 24-27.

Accessibility Assistance: Contact the OSHA Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

*These files are provided for downloading.