Safety When Carrying Out Excavations

Carrying out excavations is a common work procedure for employees such as builders, construction workers, engineers and road maintenance staff. It often involves digging or distributing the ground in order to fix electrical and wiring problems.

Excavation work can be extremely hazardous as electrical wires within trenches can often be wrongly identified as pipes. Damage to electrical cables can result in fatal and severe injuries, therefore it is crucial that employees take extra care when carrying out this type of job. Excavation work also involves working for long periods of time in dark and claustrophobic environments. This hazard leaves employees vulnerable to falling ill and experiencing injuries within their working environment.

An article that circulated the press in recent years further emphasised the dangers that excavation work can bring to an employee. A large construction company was fined after a worker had to be dug out of a trench that collapsed onto him. The employee was left with a broken collarbone, punctured lungs and fractures to his ribs, resulting in three weeks’ worth of intensive care.

Where did it go wrong?               

After the HSE investigated the matter, it was found that the trench had not been supported properly, leading to it collapsing on the employee. Experts also found that the staff had not had adequate health and safety training prior to carrying out the job. The organisational body had also not provided employees with a risk assessment underpinning the hazards that they could face. After analysing the situation HSE inspector stated “The worker suffered permanent injury, they are lucky to still be alive”.

Advice for Safe Excavation Work

Here’s Peoplesafe’s guide to carrying out excavations in the safest possible way. It’s best to go the extra mile as employee’s safety is hugely important.

Identify the risks: Carry out a clear risk assessment. Employers are responsible in circulating this to their teams. If an employee is aware of the risks associated with their roles they are less likely to encounter an injury due to naturally acting more cautiously.

Plan the work:   Most service cables belong to a Distribution Network Operator (DNO). However, some cables belong to other organisations such as the highways authority, Ministry of Defence or Network Rail.

You should check nearby for equipment owned by the organisations listed above, and if you suspect there are underground cables, ask them for plans to confirm their location. If underground cables are nearby, you may need to ask someone from the organisation to come and accurately locate them for you.

Prevent collapsing: The most dangerous element to working in and around trenches is their ability to collapse. Don’t assume the ground will stay supported. Ensure the trench is supported with trench sheets and timber railings. Ensure a secure ladder is provided so an employee can easily escape in an emergency.

Implement a robust system: If you’re looking to go the extra mile to protect employees, Peoplesafe offer a robust Twig Ex (ATEX) device that is intrinsically safe and designed to be used in hazardous, potentially explosive locations. Along with two – way audio, GPS and Mandown capabilities, the device also features pre – defined buttons for voice calls and a dedicated button to raise an alarm in an emergency.

For further information on Peoplesafe’s lone worker solutions, please speak to our experts who can advise you on which best suits your organisation.