4 Crucial Excavation Safety Tips For Homeowners

Posted on: 17 November 2015

Excavating your yard for a pool, a deck or simply to run some underground plumbing lines might seem like a simple task, but it's actually a major project with some potentially disastrous pitfalls. In fact, industry safety experts call excavation and trenching one of the most hazardous construction operations, which means that extreme care and caution should be used every time you dig. Reduce your risk and follow these safety tips every time you excavate, and don't hesitate to call in the pros, such as Gerard Excavation LLC, if you don't think you can't complete the job safely.

Beware of Underground Utilities

From your viewpoint above the ground, there's no way to see what lies buried beneath the soil on your property. Digging without proper planning could result in electrocution or death if you happen to strike a buried electrical wire or gas pipe. Even less deadly utilities, like water or sewer pipes, could also ruin your day and costs thousands to repair if you damage them. Fortunately, many municipalities offer free locating services for homeowners. These services mark the location of underground utilities if you call before you dig. In many areas, you can simply call 811 for help. Keep in mind that you may also have to hire a contractor to locate private utilities if they are present on your property.

Shore Up Trenches and Holes

Despite very strict safety rules protecting commercial construction workers, at least two workers die each month due to collapsed trenches.  While homeowners working on their own property are not necessarily subject to these same rules, safety standards developed by OSHA and similar organizations provide valuable guidance for preventing trench collapse. Anytime you are digging down five feet or deeper, take steps to shore up the trench to prevent collapse. This could mean sloping the sides of the trench, using wooden or metal trench boxes, or installing hydraulic supports within the trench. 

Steer Clear of the Edge of the Trench

A fall into a seemingly shallow five foot trench could easily harm a child, pet or family member. Keep all family members and visitors clear of the excavated area using caution tape and other safety gear. It's also a good idea to keep vehicles and equipment far from the trench, both to prevent them from falling in and to keep them from disturbing the soil, which could lead to a trench collapse. 

Leave an Escape Path

If something goes wrong when you are underground, the last thing you want to do is struggle to get out of the trench. Working with tools could lead to fire, and you could accidentally hit a gas, sewer, water or electrical line. OSHA suggests having a ladder at least every 25 feet if your trench is more than four feet deep so you can escape quickly if needed.

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