What Are the Safety Concerns for Excavation and Tunneling Projects?

When construction workers excavate or trench tunnels, shafts, chambers and passageways, the work is dangerous.

What makes excavation and tunneling such dangerous work?

According to OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), what makes this work potentially dangerous for workers is reduced light, limited entry and exit, possible exposure to air contaminants and fire or explosion hazards.

What is the employer’s responsibility for keeping workers safe?

All private industry employers with one or more employees are subject to OSHA standards for excavation and tunneling. For construction employees working underground, OSHA states that the following areas should be covered in training programs:

  • Air monitoring and ventilation
  • Illumination
  • Communications
  • Flood control
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Emergency procedures, including excavation plans
  • Check-in/check-out procedures
  • Explosives
  • Fire prevention and protection
  • Mechanical equipment

What level of communication does OSHA expect for underground work?

Each shift should be notified about hazardous conditions, which would include any equipment failures, cave-ins, earth or rockslides, flooding, fires, explosions and gas release.

Supervisors must stay in communication with underground workers and test their communication systems to ensure they are functioning.

What type of safety measures must be in place?

Site control procedures include having workers check-in and checkout to ensure all personnel are accounted for and also to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing the site. Control over entering and exiting the site is also vital so that machinery for excavating, hauling and moving do not present a hazard to workers.

Inspections must be done at the beginning of every shift to ensure the shoring, fencing, roof and support of underground areas is stable. Shafts and wells more than five feet deep require support by steel casing, concrete pipe, timber, solid rock or other suitable material.

These are just a few of many regulations that contractors must abide to create a safe excavation or tunneling site.

When safety violations occur and workers suffer injury, grounds may exist to take legal action. Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, offers a free initial consultation to discuss your accident and evaluate your potential case.