How often do we see construction workers in potentially dangerous situations? How often do we pass a construction site and see a worker in an unprotected trench?

One in five worker deaths each year is due to construction. But the excavation death rate is 112% higher than the rest of the construction industry, which shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that one cubic yard (27 cubic feet) of earth can weigh as much as a car.

Burglaries can be easily fatal and it is your responsibility as an employer to protect yourself against them. Which security system protects employees from risks such as break-ins? Managers and supervisors need to know that.

Trench and excavation safety

A single trench is literally filled with security risks. It’s pretty easy for a worker to just get crushed under the weight of dirt, not to mention the ease of suffocation, drowning, and inhalation of toxic fumes. For this reason, trenches 20 feet or deeper must be designed by a registered professional engineer.

Think about it. A literal hole in the ground is so dangerous that it must be made by a licensed, highly skilled engineer.

Because of the risks of trenches and excavations, OSHA has attached extensive rules to them. There are three main standards:

  1. 29 CFR 1926.650 (Scope, Application and Definitions for This Subsection)
  2. 29 CFR 1926.651 (Specific Excavation Requirements)
  3. 29 CFR 1926.652 (requirements for protective systems)

The best place to start is 1926,650, which defines a collapse as the peeling of soil or rock from the side of an excavation, or the loss of soil under a moat shield, and sudden movement in sufficient quantity to bury it. Trap, injure, or immobilize workers in the excavation or trench.

This standard also defines protective systems and names several such systems: “Protective systems include support systems, incline and bench systems, shield systems and other systems that provide the necessary protection.”

Which security system protects employees from risks such as break-ins?

It is best to start with the security systems listed in 1926.650:

  • Support systems
  • Slope systems
  • Banking systems
  • Shield systems

Support systems such as shields use trench boxes or similar supports to prevent break-ins. Slope systems are not physical equipment, but rather a technique in which the diaphragm walls are cut diagonally upwards and away from the excavation site. Benching is a similar premise where the trench walls are cut in a series of horizontal steps that are angled from the excavation site. There is also a shoring in which the diaphragm walls are held upright with aluminum hydraulic supports or a similar system.

Never forget the power of a competent person

Don’t forget the power of a competent person. Each trench must be inspected by a knowledgeable person daily and whenever conditions change to ensure safe trench entry. Also, under OSHA standards, you are required to have a competent person inspect a trench before the workers begin.

The tools you need for a safer day at work

Which security system protects employees from risks such as break-ins? In reality, it’s never just a system – it’s a series of interacting safeguards.

Your hydraulic systems can get you started, but our construction industry safety solutions help with whatever comes next, so you can pick up critical safety data to make the right decision at the right moment. So when you’re ready to start building safer trenches (and safer construction sites), get in touch to see how our software can help you.


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