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Pre-Excavation Checklist

Excavations are large, challenging projects in construction, which is why preparation is crucial to its success and safety. To assist you in assessing the safety of trenches and other excavation projects in construction sites, here is a pre-excavation checklist to remind you of details you’ve accomplished and objectives you still need to complete.

Item #1: Hiring subcontractors

Make sure that all necessary subcontractors, such as underground wire and pipe detection specialists, have been hired before the excavation begins.

Item #2: Underground services

Find out the exact position of all underground cables and utility lines for gas, telecommunication, water, electricity and sewerage before any sort of excavation starts. Take note that site drawings and plans may not always be complete or even accurate. Ask distribution companies and local services for assistance.

Item #3: Operator qualifications

Your operators should have the following qualifications:

  • Front-end loaders should have qualifications endorsed with LL.
  • Skid-steer loaders with LS.
  • Excavators with LE.
  • Dragline operators with LD.
  • Dozer operators with LZ.
  • Front-end loader/Backhoe operator with LB.

Item #4: Earthmoving safety

Make sure that all earthmoving equipment is being used safely. See to it that operators aren’t digging under existing buildings or any temporary structure. Always ensure that backhoes, front-end loaders and excavators have their buckets completely lowered when left unattended. When parked overnight near public areas, make certain that the equipment are locked up, secured and lit with warning signs to alert traffic.

Item #5: Protection from collapse

Under no circumstances should you allow any employee to enter a trench larger than 1.5 metres deep, unless it’s safely shored, has a trench shield, or has been properly battered back. Remember that shoring should always be positioned from above, not from below. Ground support should have at least F8-grade hardwood timber because it creaks loudly when overloaded, warning people to leave as soon as possible. Remember to always wear safety equipment like helmets.

Item #6: Safeguards for confined space

Are there any safeguards in place for entering into confined spaces, especially when there’s a chance of having a hazardous atmosphere in an excavation? For examples, see WorkSafe’s web publication titled Confined Spaces - Shafts, Tunnels & Trenches.

Item #7: Measures to prevent falling

The excavation should be properly locked up and secured to prevent anyone from falling into them. As much as possible, never leave the excavation unattended to keep people from wandering into any hazards.

Item #8: Safe access to excavation

To gain access to the excavation floor, use industrial grade ladders instead of soldier piles used in trench shoring. Climbing up and down soldier piles could loosen the support and cause a collapse.

Item #9: Working precautions

Always see to it that no one works alone inside an excavation. There should always be another person on hand to provide or get help.

Item #10: Excavation inspection

Inspect the soil in the excavation frequently for any fretting, slumping, swelling or any other unusual activity. The state of the soil around excavations can change rapidly because of several factors, such as water saturation or soil dryness. Because of this, make sure that the shoring system is reinforced whenever necessary before resuming any work in the excavation.