Trenching and Excavation


The references on this page provide information related to trenching and excavation in construction including OSHA's trenching and excavation construction regulations, hazard recognition, possible solutions and general resources.


Trenching and excavation hazards are addressed in specific standards for the construction industry. This section highlights OSHA standards and documents related to trenching and excavation.

OSHA Standards
Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)
Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)
Related Information

1926 Subpart P - Excavations

1926.651, Specific Excavation Requirements.

Related Information

1926.652, Requirements for protective systems.

Related Information

1926 Subpart S - Underground Construction, Caissons, Cofferdams, and Compressed Air

1926.800, Underground Construction

Related Information

1926 Subpart V - Electric Power Transmission and Distribution

1926.956, Hand and portable power equipment.

Related Information
State Plan Standards

There are 29 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.

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.

  • U.S. 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. OSHA Publication 3252, (2005).
  • Preventing Injuries and Deaths From Skid Steer Loaders. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2011-128, (December 2010). Describes six deaths involving skid steer loaders and recommends methods for preventing similar incidents.
  • Preventing Deaths and Injuries From Excavation Cave-Ins. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2011-208, (September 2011). Provides several case reports, OSHA standards that apply to these cases, and recommended courses of action.
  • 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.
Related Safety and Health Topics Pages
  • OSHA 3015, Excavation, Trenching and Soli Mechanics. This course covers the OSHA Excavation Standard and safety and health aspects of excavation and trenching. Course topics include practical soil mechanics and its relationship to the stability of shored and unshored slopes and walls of excavations, introduction of various types of shoring (wood timbers and hydraulic), soil classification, and use of protective systems. Testing methods are demonstrated and students participate in workshops in the use of instruments such as penetrometers, torvane shears, and engineering rods. Upon course completion students will have the ability to assess their employer's compliance with the OSHA Excavation Standard, utilize soil testing methods to classify soil types, determine protective systems for excavation operations, and training requirements.
  • Excavation. Oregon-OSHA. Includes publications, fact sheets, workbooks/instructor guides, and a video/DVD library.
    • Excavation Safety - Instructor Version. Oregon-OSHA Workshop 302. Provides information on excavation work in construction, discussing specific hazards resulting from excavation work and requirements for protective systems.
    • Excavations. 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