Safe excavation and groundworks are an integral part of modern construction work…
But with health and safety regulations constantly changing, getting the work completed quickly, efficiently and safely can be a challenge.
Read on to find out our top tips for safe excavation:
Establish what you’re up against
The first and most important step to safe excavation work is knowing what lies beneath. Modern roads and pavements can contain hugely complex networks of pipes and cables. This means it is more important than ever to be properly prepared.
Modern techniques such as GPR (ground penetration radar) can be hugely beneficial in helping to isolate exactly what buried services already exist on site.
Plan your work effectively
When excavating ground, mistakes can prove fatal. This is why it’s important to conduct a thorough risk assessment, detailing any possible dangers posed by existing underground services.
Brief your staff properly
Damage to services such as electricity cables, gas pipes and water pipes have been responsible for many deaths and serious injuries. Many of these incidents could have been prevented had the risks been properly mediated and workers adequately prepared.
Take the time to brief your staff and they’ll be equipped to deal with almost any eventuality and are much less likely to put themselves in danger.
Choose the right method for the job
Safe excavation shouldn’t be left up to chance and there are times when a shovel and spade are just too risky. Fortunately, modern excavation techniques such as Vacuum or Suction Excavation drastically reduce the amount of contact necessary between site workers and buried services. They’re also quicker, more efficient and reduce the risk of costly service strikes.
Expose the surface safely
Vacuum Excavation is an increasingly popular way to excavate around buried surfaces safely. The high-powered truck’s remote excavation arm is able to quickly and expertly remove debris from the area, requiring no manual digging whatsoever.
If, however, you have chosen to excavate using more traditional methods, it is essential that all staff understand the potential risks involved, are able to use detection tools and practise safe-excavation techniques by manually digging only and avoiding the use of dangerous power tools.
Wear appropriate clothing
If you have decided to have your site workers expose the surface manually, it is important that they are wearing safe clothing. Working bare-chested increases the risk of severe burns and man-made fibres can melt into the skin. In the unfortunate event that a live electric cable or gas pipe is struck, specially designed protective clothing could save someone’s life.
Update your plans!
If a change arises (such as unearthing an unexpected pipe) and you or your staff are not adequately prepared to meet this change, don’t just plough on regardless… Adapt your plan to incorporate the change and ensure that everyone is properly briefed and the risk assessment amended.
This covers you from a health and safety perspective and also helps minimise the risk of costly service strikes.
Want to know more?
You can read the full HSE report on safe excavation techniques here