Our team at Bob Oates Plumbing, Sewer, & Rooter here in Seattle, undergo a ridged weekly trench safety training for all employees. We follow OSHA (Occupational Safety & Heath Administration) guidelines for trench safety & all of our underground team has a Competent Person certification card. OSHA defines a Competent Person as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” We also always use approved shore boards and aluminum boxes when excavating any hole over 4’ in depth. All excavated holes must have a ladder in the hole and must be tied off to limit movement and collapse. Dirt excavated from the trench must be at least 2’ from the trench to prevent any collapses. In addition helmets and approved work boots must be worn at all times, and safety vests at Bob Oates’s company is a must.
General Trenching and Excavation Rules
- Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges.
- Keep surcharge loads at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) from trench edges.
- Know where underground utilities are located.
- Test for low oxygen, hazardous fumes and toxic gases.
- Inspect trenches at the start of each shift.
- Inspect trenches following a rainstorm.
- Do not work under raised loads.
Every death is preventable when it comes to trench safety but unfortunately trench collapses claim about 30 workers a year. Just two months ago a plumber lost his life while on the job in west Seattle after a 10 foot deep trench caved in. Dirt is a very heavy element. Did you know a cubic yard of dirt can weigh more than 3,000 pounds? With that being said the Common Ground Alliance is an organization that recognized April as National Safe Digging Month. National Safe Digging Month promotes awareness of safe digging practices across the county. If you are about to start a digging project call 811 first. 811 is a free, FCC-designated national number that connects people to their local one call center. The one call center will then alert the appropriate underground facility owners so they can dispatch locators to mark the approximate location of their lines, with paint or flags so then professionals or homeowners can safely dig around the marks.