how to prevent excavation work accidents

Making excavations on your property is an excellent way to improve drainage from an existing building. You can also excavate a larger spot and add on to an existing structure or add a concrete pad for storage. However, without proper preparation, permitting and safety steps, you can put your employees and existing structures at risk.

1) Designate and Train a Safety Protocol Professional

Bring in your safety protocol professional early. As soon as you’re considering making excavations and the changes that will follow, this person should be part of the discussions. Excavation machinery can be extremely heavy and may not be able to cross certain sections of your lot.

Because getting your utilities marked will have a large impact on your project even if you’re not digging near them, your safety professional will need access to information on

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  • water and sewer main location
  • phone and cable lines
  • gas line pathways across your properties


Personality is key to this. You will need an employee who has strong spatial abilities and the ability to visualize machinery moving around your lot to prevent a line breach due to ground shifting. They will also have to be able to speak up when schedules are tight and budgets are on the line.

2) Define and Monitor Entrance and Exit

Once the machinery is in place and the dig has begun, you may need to dig an entrance ramp to the site. Monitoring the stability of this ramp, making sure you have plenty of stable parking topside, and carefully guarding access to the top and bottom of the ramp are critical.

Make sure that you allow plenty of time for the excavation professionals to do their job. Rushing or pushing an excavation can be extremely hazardous and may put your plans back indefinitely in the event of a cave-in.

3) Provide Cave-In Safety Gear

If you have folks engaging in hand digging around the perimeter or if there is any risk of flooding the pit, make sure that none of them are digging by hand near mechanized digging equipment; cave-ins can kill. If your excavation project is taking place anywhere near traffic, all will need reflective gear and headlamps.

The hazards to the mechanized drivers must also be monitored. While those digging by hand may be able to hear shouts and warnings, a machine operator will need another form of notification. Egress is critical, as is a warning whistle or flashing light from the site monitor in the event of a cave-in. Finally, for those running excavation equipment topside, barricades to the edge such as cones or roll logs are critical to the safety of all. Visibility around a dig can be challenging if the wind comes up.

If your excavation project is in the desert, excavators may need to blast before they can start digging. Ear and eye protection for anyone near the site are critical to the safety of all.

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4) Daily Testing For Hazards In The Atmosphere

Air at the bottom of the pit must be tested on a regular basis. Ventilation is critical, and if ventilation can’t be guaranteed, protective gear must be made available to all working in the pit. Safety equipment should be made available in the event that someone suffers stress from working in the safety gear.

If daily testing indicates that everyone in the pit will need to be in a respirator or other protective gear, make sure that everyone is trained on how to wear the respirator effectively. The safety of a properly fitted respirator can be extremely helpful, but the constriction of wearing such a respirator can feel constricting. Training can prevent panic.

5) Have a Spotter When Working Around The Perimeter Of An Excavation Site

Rolling equipment may bump the edge logs designed to keep people safe. Your spotter can note this and get the edge logs back in place. If a hand digger is getting too close to an excavating machine, the spotter can notify the supervisor.

Your spotter can also work with your site manager to confirm

  • air test times
  • proper use of safety gear
  • parking positions topside of the heaviest excavation machinery


This person may also be assigned to check the weather, wind conditions, and the risk of moisture buildup in the pit.

6) Make Sure Utility Lines Are Clearly Marked

Getting utility lines marked can be quite simple and is generally free. In addition to checking gas, water and sewer, make sure you also know where the phone lines and cable lines run. You only have to cut one fiberoptic cable to severely impact your business neighbors. Your local excavation project should be run like a tight ship for maximum safety.

Your contractor will certainly do this. However, if you’re considering an excavation, make the call and get the lines marked. You may choose to increase a parking pad to provide spots for heavy excavation equipment. While this will impact your schedule, it can do a lot to increase the safety of everyone on the job site.