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Safety in the Trenches

TrenchingTrenching and excavation sites are recognized as some of the most hazardous work environments in the construction industry. Hundreds of workers have been injured and some are even killed while working in trenches. With the danger involved, how do contractors ensure safety working in trenches at an excavation site?


The main hazard of trenching is employee injury from a collapse of the earthen walls of the trench, or a slip and fall at a cluttered work site. Other hazards include working near high traffic areas, risk of shock from overhead and underground electrical lines, working in close proximity to utilities, working with heavy machinery and manual handling of material.

Construction activities require specific safety procedures established by OSHA or industry standards to keep workers safe. These safety procedures should be implemented and supervised by a competent person. The competent person must be capable of identifying existing and potential dangers at a work site and has the authority to enact safety procedures. A competent person by training and experience will identify potential hazards and develop appropriate safety procedures.


Adequate initial planning for safety at the work site will prevent many on-the-job accidents and keep expenses in line. Many specific conditions should be considered, such as volume of traffic and the proximity and condition of other structures. The type of soil and amount of surface and ground water are important factors in choosing the right protection system. Also, it is important to determine the location of existing utilities and follow local laws prior to beginning work.

Protect Yourself

Workers can be protected from cave ins by sloping or benching the walls of the trench, by supporting the sides with shoring, or using a shield to protect workers from a cave-in. Sloping involves cutting the walls of the trench at a specific angle depending on the type of soil, and benching is cutting the walls in a series of steps. Sloping and benching are often not considered feasible or economic because of the volume of material that needs to be removed and the amount of space required. Alternatively, you can use a shield or a shoring system. A shield, or trench box, does not prevent a cave-in, but rather shields workers from material in the event of a cave-in and a shoring system allows you to supporting the trench walls with a series struts using hydraulic pressure. This method saves space, time and money because the trench walls of the can be vertical, and the equipment is easy to transport and install.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about protective systems at an excavation site, contact Neff Rental or call us at 888-709-6333. We are ready to assist you with your equipment needs.


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