If you work in the construction industry, you may be worried about open inspection chambers and excavations. Although excavation work can present a whole host of potential dangers, there are steps that you can take to keep yourself and your workers safe.
From how to reduce the risk of excavations collapsing to how to prevent falling into excavations, read on to discover everything you need to know about preventing danger to workers near open inspection chambers and excavations.
How to prevent collapsing excavations
To prevent excavations from collapsing, there are several steps that you can take:
- Ensure you have all the necessary equipment, such as trench sheets, trench box props, and baulks.
- Batter the excavation sides to a safe angle of repose to improve safety.
- Make sure that you have an adequately trained professional engineer on site.
How to prevent falling or dislodging materials
Loose materials can fall from soil heaps into the excavation and cause problems, and as the soil can weigh anywhere from 1.3 up to 1.7 tonnes when dug up, this is not something that you can risk falling. Fortunately, this can be prevented by using edge protection such as shoring and shielding methods. Shoring will prevent any collapsing, and shielding will protect your workers should the worst happen, and a collapse occurs. One option for shoring is hydraulic shoring, which uses hydraulic pistons. These pump outward, pressing against the walls of the trench.
You should also never park vehicles close to the sides of an excavation as this can make them more likely to collapse and can increase the risk of material falling in.
How to prevent people from falling into excavations
Falling into an open chamber or excavation can cause serious injuries, so it is crucial that you take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening. There are several ways that you can reduce the risk of someone falling into an excavation and protect workers, including the following two:
- Use guard rails and toe boards on each side of the excavation to improve ground conditions.
- Use trench box extensions or trench sheets that are longer than the depth of the trench.
How to protect overhead and underground services
It is not uncommon for serious accidents and injuries to occur when buried services become damaged during excavation activity. For example, contact with electricity cables can cause serious burns and explosions. Furthermore, escaping gas can result in both damage to the site and injury to your construction workers.
Therefore, you should never start excavation work until all the necessary health and safety actions have been taken to prevent any risks from both overhead and underground services. This applies to all situations. For instance, if you put in place access and egress (in other words, your entrance and exit), these should be controlled and safe.
Ideally, you should avoid carrying out excavation work close to overhead power lines.
How to prevent an inflow of ground and surface water
In some cases, water can flow into an excavation below the natural groundwater level. Therefore, you must ensure that the sides of the open chamber or excavation are sufficiently supported and can accommodate any additional water.
If you are working near a lake or river, then this step is particularly important, and you need to focus on how you will be able to pump this water out. Alternatively, ground freezing and grout injection can be used to de-water an excavation site, but you will need to hire a professional and competent person to carry these out for you, who will have very specific requirements they must meet to ensure it is safe for you. You can learn more about Safety in Construction here and ensure you can protect workers around the clock.