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Excavation Safety Checklist

Identify problems before they occur, improving the collaboration of your employees and the health and excavation safety at the pit.

See our ready-made templates:

Trench Log and Excacation Inspection Form

Use this trench log and excavation inspection checklist for the most hazardous operations in the building industry.

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Trench Excavation Inspection Checklist Template

Use this trench excavation Inspection checklist to assess an excavation or trench as safe before the work is carried out underground.

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Excavation Risk Assessment Template

Use this excavation risk assessment template to determine the dangers and risks as well as the severity and possibility of each excavation danger.

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PPE Safety Toolbox Talk Checklist

Use thisppe safety toolbox talk checklist template to prevent employees from uncontrollable hazards.

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What does an excavation risk assessment mean for excavation safety?

An excavation assessment is performed by a competent person such as the foreman, excavator operator or other worker to identify and reduce safety hazards prior to civil engineering and excavation work. The n excavation assessment should be conducted at least daily and before the start of each shift to protect workers from cave-ins and to ensure that protective systems such as slopes, benches, shoring, shielding, and other engineering controls are properly in place and in good condition.

Risk assessments can be conducted using checklists. Their structured design increases the reliability of safety checks. Step by step, it is possible to go through each checkpoint so that no checkpoint is forgotten. In addition, this form of check makes it easier for the particular inspector to perform the work by making sure that all relevant safety checks and questions are listed.

This article deals with the issues:

1. Managing hazards and risks with excavation risk assessment

2. Check points in a risk assessment for excavations

3. Digital software & app for excavation safety checklists

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Manage hazards and risks with excavation risk assessment

In civil engineering, excavation support is an important occupational health and safety measure. Due to a variety of factors, excavation work is some of the most hazardous construction work. In some situations, the potential for danger can even increase, especially after rainfall and when cracks, stress cracks, and water ingress occur. Devising a protection system for civil engineering work can be complex, especially when there are surprising changes in the excavation and signs of movement in adjacent structures.

The following steps are therefore part of any excavation risk assessment, regardless of the conditions encountered, in order to be prepared for any hazards, safety risks, and unexpected occurrences that may arise:

Step 1: Hazard Identification

To identify and minimize safety hazards at an excavation site, the inspector must identify hazards that occur in the primarily entrance and loading/unloading areas, as well as during the actual excavation work. The most common sources of hazards during excavation operations include:

  • Falls, falling loads, crushing and entrapment
  • Construction vehicles or other mobile equipment
  • Underground conduits or utility lines
  • Occurrence of hazardous pollutants and toxic atmospheres

In addition, competent persons must be able to identify potential system failure conditions that could lead to collapses, such as standing water and water pooling, bulges on the ground, and weaknesses in adjacent structures.

Step 2: Corrective and Preventive Action

When hazards and safety risks are identified during a excavation risk assessment, corrective actions must be initiated immediately to eliminate hazards and minimize risks. It may also be necessary to stop work entirely until the hazard is corrected. The additional precautions and control measures should be adequately documented in the risk assessment.

In order to save time and money and to keep occupational health and safety at a high level, however, construction managers should above all set precautionary measures. This includes having personal protective equipment (PPE) available at all times for workers as well as certifying all equipment operators. Also, reinforce the ditch when minimum depths are exceeded. During hot spells, increase break frequency and restrict access to the excavation.

Step 3: Safety briefings during excavation

To reinforce safety during excavation work, each team should conduct regular toolbox talks. This should include sharing lessons learned from the risk assessment and having conversations about excavation work that include:

  • what to do before excavation
  • what not to do during excavation
  • the different types of protection systems used to protect against collapse
  • the factors that determine which protective system to use
  • emergency measures to be taken to prevent trench collapses

Step 4: Training on excavation work

The competent person performing the deep excavation risk assessment should have in-depth knowledge of soil mechanics, soil type determination and testing equipment for soil type evaluation, design of support systems such as shoring types (hydraulic and pneumatic) and shielding types (trench boxes and combined use with slopes and benches), and regulatory requirements. In addition, these individuals or the team should be given the opportunity for continuing education and information about the latest findings.

Step 5: Documentation

To ensure continuous improvement in occupational health and safety and to build a culture of excavation safety, the hazards identified, the risks controlled and the corrective and preventive measures applied should be accurately documented. This will help identify trends that will ultimately allow potential risks to be more accurately predicted and prevented even before they occur. This does not have to be limited to the civil engineering risk assessment. Hazards and safety risks discovered at any time, even by other employees, can be documented.

Check points of a risk assessment for construction pits

Working in construction pits is one of the most dangerous in the construction industry. Therefore, a competent person must regularly inspect an excavation pit. It is recommended that a civil engineering risk assessment be conducted in the following cases:

  1. At least once a day when persons are working there.
  2. When the depth exceeds 2 m at the beginning of each work shift.
  3. After any event that may have affected the strength or stability of the excavation or shoring.
  4. After any accidental fall of rock, soil, or other material.
  5. At least once every 7 days when no people are working there.

A excavation risk assessment form is completed and signed off by the competent person in each case. This form can be structured as a checklist, and query the respective safety aspects according to different points of view, in order to facilitate the work of the inspector and to give security not to omit any test points. Aspects of the excavation work that should be inspected include:

  1. Surface condition
    • Cracks
    • Dumps that are not in the vicinity of the excavations
    • No equipment or materials stored near the edge
    • No standing water in the excavation
  2. Slopes and sides of slopes/benches
    • Cracks
    • Change in soil type
    • Slope of the side/bank
  3. Access and egress
    • Stairs, ladders, ramps as required
  4. Support and screening
    • Properly installed and functional
    • Tight wedges
  5. Existing utility lines
    • Sufficient support
    • Loose materials
  6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • Warning vests, hard hats, steel-toed shoes, etc.
  7. Weather
    • Rain
    • Hail
    • Night frost

Using a digital software & app for excavation safety

An effective and regularly conducted risk assessment is just the beginning of ensuring safety during excavation work. It takes commitment and consistent action by the workforce and employer to build and maintain awareness of compliance and implementation of safety measures in and around the excavation.

With Lumiform, legal and corporate requirements can be more easily met by documenting all processes via a mobile app using a smartphone or tablet. The system guides safety officers and other responsible parties through all documentation processes. This creates clean, transparent documentation that helps prevent workplace accidents and avoid hefty fines. Take advantage of the following benefits, among others, of Lumiform's app and desktop software for excavation safety:

  • The flexible form builder allows pre-built, industry-standard templates to be turned into digital checklists in minutes.
  • Use risk assessments and safety checklists for civil engineering work anytime, anywhere, on any mobile device via the super intuitive mobile app - even offline.
  • Add as many photos as necessary to the exams and annotate them to give a better visual impression.
  • Assign corrective and preventive actions while risk assessment and safety audits are still in progress, with priority level and due date, to address identified hazards or safety risks.
  • All audit results are automatically bundled into one report and can be sent to stakeholders.

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