Excavation Hazards And How To Prevent Them

Excavation activities are required at various places in many construction projects. It specifically becomes necessary in demolition and renovation projects. According to OSHA, (after trenching) excavation causes the most work time fatalities (occupational safety and health administration). Excavation failures are really dangerous as they occur swiftly and spare no time to the site workers or people nearby to escape for safety.

The risk associated with the evacuation collapse increases with its speed and extension. The aftermath of the collapse can be deadly as the falling earth can crush and bury any worker in its path. This can cause suffocation and crush injuries, and even the death of the person under impact.

Therefore, to minimize the possible accidents and hazards, evacuation should be done using appropriate tools and under the supervision of expert excavation contractors.

What Is Excavation Work?

Excavation is usually termed as the removal of soil or rock from the site using specialized machinery. Sometimes explosives are used to excavate and create a hole or cavity in the ground. Excavation can be done anywhere; on construction sites, business premises, or even in public places. General excavation services include open excavation, pit excavations, shaft and drives, potholing, trenches, and retaining walls.

Excavation Hazards

Now let’s see some of the excavation hazards and possible ways to avoid them.

Mobile Equipment

Backhoe loaders and dump trucks are the construction vehicles that are most commonly involved in excavation or trenching site accidents. The view of the mobile equipment operator is obstructed, due to which they may fail to see when they are close to the trench or fall. Therefore, to avoid the hazard of mobile equipment or operators falling in the trench, it is recommended to put the spotter or flagger in the related direction.

Workers should be guided to stand away from the equipment and machinery and when loading or unloading the construction material. This will ensure that the flying debris from the material does not hit the workers. Moreover, to minimize the risk of the hazards caused by the working of mobile equipment, workers should wear appropriate protective apparel, such as wearing a hard hat that will protect their heads.

Falling Loads

On construction and renovation sites, the perimeter of excavation should be premarked using safety signs and barriers. This will prevent the workers and the equipment from falling. In trenching areas, trench dust or falling excavation equipment can crush the workers on the trenching sites.

OSHA suggests placing all construction site equipment away from the excavation site (at least two feet away from it). Similarly, it is recommended that workers should not work beneath the hanging, raised, or suspended loads.

Hazardous Atmosphere

Depleted oxygen levels are common in trenching or excavation areas. Toxic chemicals and gases released as a result of earth breakdown can also impact the atmosphere around the trenching or excavation site.

Therefore, excavations exceeding four feet should be done by professionals. To be safe, the area should be inspected by professional atmospheric testing before, during, and after the excavation process.

In case of atmospheric hazards, workers should be equipped with proper breathing kits. Special respiratory protection protocols and equipment should be kept near the excavation area.


Occupational safety and health administration shows special concerns about cave-ins as they kill at least two site workers every month. Cave-ins being a threat to the workers’ lives requires qualified engineers and professionals to analyze, design, and implement the slopes, shields, and support after analyzing the soil.

To avoid job site injuries and fatalities, hiring professional and qualified workers is critical to implement the process.

Damaging The Infrastructure And Utility Lines

Breakage of utility lines during excavation can cause leakage and electrocution. You can experience worker fatalities caused by inhaling the leaking natural gas and falling victims to electrocutions due to destroyed utility lines. Moreover, hitting the utility lines during the excavation process can cause heavy and expensive infrastructure losses.

Avoiding these hazards and mistakes is easy. All you need to do is ask the local utility company to mark the utility lines before digging or carrying the excavation process. Digging without a prior call to the local authorities can not only cause health and safety hazards, but the company can also face fines.

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