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Excavation Safety Dos and Don’ts - EHS construction

Excavation Safety Dos and Don’ts
Excavation Safety Dos and Don’ts

Excavation Safety Dos and Don’ts

According to OSHA, an excavation is a cut, cavity, trench, or artificial depression in the earth's surface formed by the removal of soil or rock with tools or machines. Whereas a trench is a narrow excavation, relative to its length, made below the surface of the ground. The depth of a trench is generally greater than its width although the width of a trench does not exceed 4.6 m.
Excavation is one of the most dangerous jobs carried out on construction sites, public spaces and other commercial premises. Hazards such as collapse, hazardous atmosphere, use of heavy machinery and equipment, movement of vehicles around the excavated area, man movement near the area, unprotected edges , loose materials or soil, hidden utilities, flooding, etc. are associated with excavation work.
Excavation work may include pit excavation, trenches, surface excavations, caving, and wells and drives. To ensure safety precautions and avoid serious injury, the safety do's and don'ts of excavating work should be communicated to all workers.

Excavation Safety Dos and Don’t

Here are the safety Dos and Don’ts of excavation work which can be shared with workers during safety toolbox talk or can be displayed in the site to remind the safety precautions daily.


  1. Do some due diligence or find underground services / utilities and schedule the work. Scanning method can be used for finding out the underground hidden utilities or services.
  2. Perform risk assessment or job safety analysis for the planned excavation.
  3. Obtain permits or authorization for excavation work.
  4. Conduct toolbox talk meeting to educate and communicate the hazards and safety precautions identified in JSA or risk assessment.
  5. A confined space permit is obtained if the depth is greater than 1.2 M.
  6. Manually dig where cables or pipes may be present below.
  7. For soft or loose sands/ soil, appropriate shoring must be done.
  8. Inside the trench, sloping, battering, or benching of the sides can be done.
  9. The area around the pit or excavated trench should be hard barricaded.
  10. Barricade area near the excavation machines.
  11. Flag man can be deputed for safe excavation by excavator machine.
  12. Provide safety signage at prominent locations to alert the peoples.
  13. Shore the excavated soil at least one meter away from the pit or trench.
  14. Do a gas test where necessary and to a depth of more than 1.2 meters.
  15. Plan at least two routes for safe access to a depth greater than 1.2 meters.
  16. Ladders, when used, should extend at least 1 meter above the trench.
  17. Use scaffolds with edge fall protection rail guards for crossing over any trenches.
  18. Make sure that the stability of the building nearby is not compromised.
  19. Maintain the safe distance between two excavator machines when working simultaneously side by side in the same area.
  20. Control the dump truck movement while multiple excavators are working in the same area.
  21. All mobile equipment and machinery must have warning systems, main horn, reverse horn, spotter, flashlights, etc.
  22. All mobile machines should be visually inspected before use.
  23. All mobile machines must be certified by a competent person. (the certificate is only valid for one year).


  1. Don’t progress without proper authorization i.e. follow the work permit system.
  2. Don’t use iron tools without non-conductive handles where underground power cables may be present or suspected.
  3. Don’t allow the excavator machine to move near overhead or underground power lines.
  4. Don’t cross in a barricaded area without proper precautions.
  5. Don’t allow personnel to work near excavating machinery.
  6. Don’t climb in or out of the pit by climbing on the sides. Use stairs or a ladder.
  7. Don’t jump over the trench or pit to cross.
  8. Don’t let the person stand on track or on the bucket of the excavator.
  9. Don’t leave the excavator machine before stopping the engine.
  10. Don’t refuel the excavator inside the job site.
  11. Don’t smoke while refueling excavator machines.
  12. Don’t move heavy equipment near to excavated trenches or pits.
  13. Don’t allow reinforcement rods to protrude dangerously where cut.

Most of the risks associated with excavation work can be managed by providing preventative controls such as benching, battering, shoring and providing hard barricades around the excavated area. Administrative controls such as posting safety instructions in the form of safety do's and don'ts, safety signs, warning tapes, safety markings, etc. are still needed to ensure the safety of pedestrians, vehicles and workers.
The do's and don'ts of excavation safety can be prepared and communicated to workers to educate them about the hazards associated with excavation work and how to ensure safety precautions to avoid injury or damage to property.

These safety do's and don'ts for excavation work can be posted in the workplace to remind the worker of safety precautions and improve work efficiency.

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