The Importance of Trench Safety

Trench SafetyLast Monday morning in Severn, Maryland, a 25-year-old man was tragically killed in a trench collapse. The man was part of a crew building a deck for a new home in the 1000 block of Leyton Lane. He was working in a 7-foot deep hole when it collapsed, according to the Anne Arundel fire department. It took 45 personnel from Anne Arundel and Howard County Fire/EMS Departments and Anne Arundel Department of Public Works three hours to recover the man’s body. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car.

Maryland Occupation Safety and Health (MOSH) department is investigating the incident.

The Importance of Trench Safety

Trench excavation is defined as a narrow excavation where the depth is greater than the width, but the width is not greater than 15 feet. Because of the unique nature of trench excavation, safety must be of the utmost priority. Trench collapses pose the greatest threat to workers. In fact, according to OSHA, two workers are killed every month in trench collapses. Other hazards include:

  1. Falls
  2. Falling loads
  3. Hazardous atmospheres
  4. Incidents involving mobile equipment

Any trench five feet deep or greater requires a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock. Any trench 20 feet deep or greater requires a protective system designed by a registered professional engineer. Protective systems include:

  1. Benching: This type of protective systems involves excavating the sides of a trench to form one or a series of horizontal levels or steps.
  2. Sloping: This type of protective systems involves cutting back the trench wall at an angle inclined away from the excavation.
  3. Shoring: This type of protective systems involves installing aluminum hydraulic or other types of supports to prevent soil movement and cave-ins.
  4. Shielding: This type of protective systems involves using trench boxes or other types of supports to prevent soil cave-ins.

Additional Trench Safety Tips

  1. OSHA standards require that employers inspect trenches daily and following any severe weather.
  2. OSHA standards require safe access to all trenches. This can include ladders, steps, ramps, or other safe means of exit.
  3. It’s important to keep in mind the softness of the soil when approaching a trench that is not supported by a trench box.  Unsupported trenches are prone to landslides
  4. Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges.
  5. Know the location of underground utilities before digging. Call Miss Utility.
  6. Test for atmospheric hazards: low oxygen, hazardous gases, etc.
  7. Ensure that personnel wear high visibility or other suitable clothing.

For more information, visit OSHA Safety and Health Topics web page on trenching and excavation at or

If you have any questions about our blog, “The Importance of Trench Safety,” please contact Reliable Contracting today by calling 410-987-0313 or visit our website. You can also follow Reliable Contracting on Facebook and Twitter!

When you choose Reliable Contracting, you not only choose Anne Arundel County’s largest site-work contractor, but also a company that prides itself on quality, customer service, and, most importantly, SAFETY. For more than 85 years, Reliable’s name has said it all, and our family business has earned its reputation as a leading commercial contractor by providing service and quality that is second to none.

Reliable Contracting serves Central-Southern Maryland.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 at 1:02 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.