Cave-ins and slough-offs are a major cause of deaths in the construction industry each year. Excavations must be properly shored or cut back to an acceptable angle of repose; otherwise, there will be a constant threat of a cave-in and the associated chance of injury or loss of life. A qualified person must be involved in planning and having a safe excavation project.

Before Excavation Review
Underground utilities located? (Checked with local utility companies or property owner.)
– Any overhead hazards (i.e., falling rock, soil, or other materials or equipment)?
– Will there be any heavy equipment operating in the near proximity of the excavation?
– Estimated depth required for the excavation?
– How many people will work inside the excavation?
– Is there an escape plan for those inside the excavation to cover a possible cave-in or slide?
РHas there been a soil analysis? This will help determine the type of shoring to provide or the angle  of repose needed.

Steps to Take to Provide a Safe Excavating Operation
– Always shore or cut back the opening adequately.
– Any opening with a depth of five feet or more requires shoring or be cut back.
– Never store excavated or other materials closer than two feet from the edge of the excavation.
– Inspect the excavation daily. This must be done by a competent person.
– Access ladders must be provided every twenty-five foot in excavations of four (4) foot or more in depth.
– Review escape procedures with all personnel who may have cause to be in the excavation.

Additional Discussion Notes:
– Possible gas accumulation in the excavation?
– Barriers, guardrails or other safety warnings in excavation area?

Remember: Unlike most accidents, the cave-in of an excavation usually can be predicted if closely watched. It is, therefore, critical that a competent person keeps a close eye on any excavation. Everyone should be removed from the excavation area should it appear to be unstable.