OSHA Trenching Requirements
Every month two workers are killed in trench collapses and that requires the employer to follow requirements and safety procedures. The trenching and excavation requirements of 29 CFR 1926.651 and 1926.652 or comparable OSHA-approved state plan requirements must be complied by the employer at all times. A man made cut, dig, cavity, trench, or depression in an earth surface is what defines excavation. Trench is a narrow excavation below the surface of the ground and the maximum width is 15 feet. The length has to be greater than the width. Entering unprotected trench can be extremely dangerous and deadly. One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car. A protective system is required for trenches 5 feet deep or greater. Trenches less than 5 feet need to be inspected by someone if the protective system is needed. If the trench is 20 feet or greater the protective system needs to be designed by a registered professional engineer or be based on tabulated data prepared and/or approved by a registered professional engineer according to 1926.652(b) and (c). Trenches are required by OSHA standards to be inspected daily and checked for changes in the conditions in order to eliminate excavation hazards.
Heavy equipment needs to be kept away from trench edges.
Identify other sources that might affect trench stability.
Keep excavated soil (spoils) and other materials at least 2 feet from trench edges. Know where underground utilities are located before digging. Test for atmospheric hazards such as low oxygen, hazardous fumes and toxic gases when > 4 feet deep. Inspect trenches at the start of each shift.
Inspect trenches following a rainstorm or other water intrusion. Do not work under suspended or raised loads and materials.
Inspect trenches after any occurrence that could have changed conditions in the trench. Ensure that personnel wear high visibility or other suitable clothing when exposed to vehicular traffic....
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