Trenching Accidents and How To Prevent Them

Trenches dug in the ground are necessary to a lot of construction projects. However, they are also potentially hazardous because the walls of the trench can be unstable. Geotechnical professionals Houston can help make trenches safer, and there are other things construction companies can do.

What Are the Hazards of Trenching?

Hundreds of injuries and dozens of fatalities arise from trenching accidents every year. The trouble occurs when the walls of the trench are not dug at sufficient angle to hold the soil in place. The sides of the trench can collapse as a result.

The weight of the collapsed soil can trap workers in the trench and cause injuries such as bone fractures. If the trench is deep enough and the collapse is severe enough, workers can be buried underneath the loose soil and suffocate.

What Can Be Done To Prevent Trenching Accidents?

The slope of the trench walls cannot be greater than a certain angle, determined on an individual basis by the depth of the trench and the soil type. A trench dug in stable rock, such as sandstone or granite, can have a slope up to 90 degrees but no greater. Looser soils should have more acutely angled sides. The gentler slope means that in the event of a collapse, gravity will not work as strongly on the loose soil, and the collapse is not as serious.

A trained engineer should determine the slope of a particular trench, and a competent person should inspect it before any workers are allowed entry. In a shallower trench, the sides can be shored up to prevent movement of soil. There should be emergency exits throughout the entire trench at regular intervals so that workers do not have to travel more than 25 feet to reach one. Examples of trench exits include ramps, stairways, or ladders.

Workers have some responsibilities to prevent trenching accidents too. They should always follow safety guidelines and never enter a trench that does not have an adequate safety system in place.