10 Safety Tips to Prevent a Trench Cave-in

March 15, 2022

A “cave-in” is a phrase that is used to describe a collapsed roof or support structure. The term originates from miners when the ground would suddenly collapse and bury them, but cave-ins can happen above ground, as well, such as trenches. According to OSHA, 24 workers died in trench cave-in in 2019. That may not seem like a lot, but that is too many in our book. Since your safety is our goal, let’s go over ways you can prevent cave-ins, as well as other safety tips.

Trench Cave in
  1. Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges—This is to prevent the trench wall from giving way and burying you, as well as to prevent a piece of heavy machinery from crushing you.
  2. Keep excavated soils at least two feet from trench edges—There is a two-part hazard to this; first, if the pile of excavated soils is too close to the edge, it could spill into the trench. Second, the weight of the excavated soils could be too much for the trench walls and cause a cave-in.
  3. Know where underground utilities are located before digging— Waterlines, sewer pipes, or natural gas can all create hazards if these lines are broken.
  4. Test for low oxygen, hazardous fumes, and toxic gases—This safety tip may not prevent a cave-in, per se, but it is still an important tip to follow to avoid health complications or death.
  5. Have a competent person inspect trenches at the start of each shift—A competent person should be aware of any hazards or potential hazards associated with the trench. If they see anything that could cause an incident, it is their responsibility to correct the hazard.
  6. Inspect trenches after a rainstorm— Water can wash away trench walls or destabilize them. Trench inspectors should keep this in mind as they perform their inspection at the start of each shift.
  7. Do not work under raised loads—Even a small, lightweight load can be dangerous, even fatal, if it falls. A load should be set down and out of the way, so it doesn’t pose a danger to workers.  
  8. Use appropriate protective systems to prevent cave-ins—This involves benching, shoring, shielding, or sloping. The type of soil in the trench will help determine which method would be most effective.
  9. Establish a safe point of entry and exit from a trench—Workers need to be able to enter a trench safely without damaging trench walls. Likewise, there should be a designated point(s) of exit in the case of an evacuation.
  10. Wear necessary protective gear while working in a trench—This includes high-visibility vests, hard hats, work gloves, and appropriate boots.

Your safety in the workplace is important to us. If you would like to learn more about Trench Safety, check out our online training course! Interested in what other courses we offer? Visit our website for more details! Good luck and stay safe!