Ensuring Excavation Safety is an essential part of modern contractor work and the law states that no excavation work should take place until the area is completely safe.
Failing to secure an excavation site properly can have disastrous consequences for workers and management alike, resulting in delays, injury or even death.
One of the main causes of accidents on site is poor preparation. Injury from trench collapse or serious utility strikes could both be avoided with proper planning and through the use of modern ground survey techniques such as GPR (ground penetration radar).
According to the HSE guidelines on preventing accidents in excavation, there are 6 essential steps that must be taken by manager and workers on site before and during excavation work.
1) Ensure that excavations are made safe, by trench supports, battering back, fencing or other equally effective measures
2) Be aware that there is no safe minimum depth of excavation
3) Provide training for your staff which highlights the risks
4) Ensure that adequate inspections, at least weekly, and after bad weather, are carried out on all excavations
5) Provide competent supervision
6) Ensure that plant does not work too close to the edge of an excavation
1) Never go into an unsupported trench where there is a risk of collapse
2) Never work outside the protection of trench boxes or trench supports
3) Keep plant a safe distance from the excavation edge
4) Never work underneath an excavator
5) Be alert to risks from underground services or undermining adjacent structures
6) Maintain fencing and other safety measures in order to protect others
An increasing number of contractors are opting for more modern methods as a way of ensuring excavation safety on site. Excavation techniques such as Vacuum Excavation (also called suction excavation) are considered the safest and most reliable way to excavate.
Vac Ex’s are able to excavate up to 4m3 per hour without requiring any manual labour or the use of mechanical diggers. The large suction arm is remotely operated from a safe distance, keeping the area completely clear until all pipework has been exposed and greatly reducing the risk of personal injury or service strikes.
Although Vacuum Excavation is costlier than traditional excavation methods, many in the Construction, Utility and Highway industries are being won over by its speed, efficiency and practical safety benefits.
Vac Ex’s may prove particularly useful following the announcement of national-wide ‘lane rental’ schemes and are being increasingly utilised to speed up work on construction sites in built-up areas following the North West ‘building boom’.
Sean Quinn (Managing Director at Pier UK) said:
“We are pleased to see more people adopting the use of Vacuum Excavators. Excavation Safety has always been of the upmost importance to us and we are pleased to see the rest of the industry adopting similar practices. We are proud to have the UK’s largest fleet of vacuum Excavators and can provide a solution for almost any terrain whether that be highways, City Centres or even off-road”
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