Excavation & Trenching:

Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Excavation standards, 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1926, Subpart P, contain requirements for excavation and trenching operations. This booklet highlights key elements of the standards and describes safe work practices that can protect workers from cave-ins and other hazards.

What is the difference between an excavation and a trench? An excavation is any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the Earth’s surface formed by earth removal. A trench is defined as a narrow excavation (in relation to its length) made below the ground’s surface. In general, the depth of a trench is more significant than its width, but the width of a trench (measured at the bottom) is not greater than 15 feet (4.6 m).

Topics Include:

  • What is the difference between an excavation and a trench?
  • What are the dangers of trenching and excavation operations?
  • What do the OSHA Excavation standards cover, and how do they protect workers?
  • What are the soil classification categories?
  • What is a competent person?
  • Why is preplanning important to excavation work?
  • What safety factors should be considered when bidding on a job?
  • How can employers avoid hitting underground utility lines and pipes during excavation work?
  • How can employers prevent cave-ins?
  • What are the requirements for safely installing and removing protective systems?
  • Water accumulation on excavation safety and what employers must do to protect workers from water-related excavation hazards.
  • How can employers protect workers from hazardous atmospheres inside excavations?
  • Access and egress must employers provide.
  • When must employers conduct site inspections?
  • Workers’ Rights.
  • Establishing an Injury and Illness Prevention Program.