Excavations, like scaffolds, can become unstable and unsafe if not maintained in good order. They can deteriorate rapidly as a result of environmental conditions and are liable to catastrophic failure. It is essential that they are inspected routinely to ensure they are in a safe condition.
Excavations should be inspected by a competent person:
- Before the start of every work shift.
- After any accidental fall of material.
- After any event likely to affect strength and stability.
Records of these inspections should be kept on site and remedial work must be undertaken as soon as possible to repair any defects noted.
What precautions must be taken to protect employees during excavation work?
According to the Construction Regulations, precautions must be taken that are adequate to:
- Guard against danger to persons at work from a fall or dislodgement of earth, rock or other material by suitable shoring or otherwise
- Guard against dangers arising from the fall of materials or objects or the inrush of water into the excavation, shaft, earthworks, underground works or tunnel
- Secure adequate ventilation at all workplaces so as to maintain an atmosphere fit for respiration and to limit any fumes, gases, vapors, dust or other impurities to levels which are not dangerous or injurious to health
- Enable persons at work to reach safety in the event of the fire or an inrush of water or materials
- Avoid risk to persons at work arising from possible underground dangers such as underground cables or other distribution systems, the circulation of fluids or the presence of pockets of gas, by undertaking appropriate investigations to locate them before excavation begins
- Ensure that a safe means of access to and egress from each excavation