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Provide greater cave safety with excavation safety checklists

Predict dangerous trends before they yield serious accidents with a pre-excavation checklist. Improve employee collaboration and occupational health and safety in the excavation pit. What’s more? Learn how to reinforce preventative measures as well as trench walls to keep your employees safe and the operation fruitful.

What Is an Excavation Risk Assessment?

An excavation assessment is performed by a competent person such as the foreman, excavator operator, or other workers to identify and reduce safety hazards prior to civil engineering and site excavation work. The excavation assessment should be conducted at least once a day and before the start of each shift. A trench safety plan is there 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 none is forgotten. In addition, this form makes it easier for the inspector to perform his duty by ensuring that all relevant safety checks and questions are listed.

This article deals with the issues:

1. Managing hazards with an excavation risk assessment

2. Excavation check points in a risk assessment

3. A digital software & app for excavation safety checklists

Engineers using a safety excavation checklist during an archeological find

How Do I Manage Hazards With An Excavation Risk Assessment?

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

Regardless of the current onsite conditions, the following steps are part of any excavation risk assessment. A trench safety checklist is a failsafe against any hazards, safety risks, and unexpected dangers that may arise during excavation:

Step 1: Hazard Identification

To minimize safety hazards at an excavation site, the inspector must identify hazards that occur in the primary 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
  • Prescense of hazardous pollutants and toxic substances

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

Step 2: Corrective and Preventive Action

When dangerous conditions are identified during a pre-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 has been corrected. The additional precautions and control measures should be adequately documented in the risk assessment.

In order to save time and money and keep occupational health and safety in mind throughout the entire operations, construction managers should have a predetermined set of preventive measures on hand. This includes having personal protective equipment (PPE) available to workers at all times 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 might look like sharing lessons learned from the risk assessment and having conversations that include information such as:

  • What to do before excavation
  • What not to do during excavation
  • The different types of preventative measures used to protect against collapse
  • The factors that determine which preventative measures to use
  • Emergency measures to be taken in the event of a trench collapse

Step 4: Training on Excavation Work

The competent persons performing the deep excavation safety checklist should have in-depth knowledge of soil mechanics and how to use testing equipment for soil evaluation and support systems such as shoring types (hydraulic and pneumatic), shielding types (trench boxes combined with slopes and benches), and regulatory requirements. In addition, these individuals should be given the opportunity to continue their training and continuously receive updated information on safety requirements.

Step 5: Documentation

In order to build a culture of excavation safety, the company must continuously identify hazards, control risks, and apply corrective and preventative measures. Actively documenting will help accurately predict dangerous trends and prevent accidents before they even occur. It’s important to remember that reporting does not have to be limited to a civil engineering risk assessment. Hazards and safety risks discovered at any time in any industry, even by other employees, can and should be documented.

What Are the Check Points of a Construction Pit Risk Assessment?

Working in construction pits is one of the most dangerous jobs 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. If the depth exceeds 2m, then the pit should be checked 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 an accidental fall of any object that results in the shifting of rock, soil, or other material.
  5. If no people are currently working in the excavation site, then an inspection must take place at least once every 7 days.

A competent person must complete and sign off on a trench safety checklist for each of the above cases. This form can be structured as a checklist. In addition, it can query the respective safety aspects according to differing viewpoints in order to facilitate safer working conditions. 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

Workers driving bulldozers in a mining quarry

How Can I Use 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 safety awareness in and around the excavation zone.

With Lumiform, your company can easily meet legal and corporate requirements by documenting all the steps of an inspection process via a mobile app using a smartphone or tablet. The system guides safety officers and other responsible parties through all steps of the process. This creates clean, transparent documentation that helps prevent workplace accidents and avoid hefty fines. Take advantage 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, and on any mobile device via the super intuitive mobile app – even offline.
  • Add as many photos as necessary. You can even annotate them to give a better visual impression.
  • Assign corrective and preventive actions as well as view the priority level and due dates while safety audits are still in progress. You can even address identified hazards and safety risks on the go.
  • All audit results are automatically bundled into one report and can be sent to stakeholders.

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Yellow bulldozer excavating dirt on a construction site
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