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  • Writer's pictureCraig Drabyk

Electrical Safety: Excavation and Trenching

Excavation and trenching rank among most hazardous operations in the construction industry and are strictly regulated by OSHA to prevent potentially-fatal cave-ins, falls, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and mobile equipment incidents. Trenching is very common in electrical work, and conducting safe projects and preserving the health and safety of our employees and clients is top priority at Omni Instrumentation & Electrical Services, Inc. Omni abides by all excavation and trenching safety regulations at all times.

OSHA defines excavations and trenches differently. An excavation is defined as any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression formed by earth removal. A trench is defined as a narrow excavation (in relation to its length, and not greater than 15 ft. wide) below the surface of the ground, and the the depth is generally greater than the width.

OSHA requires that all trenches 5 ft. deep or greater require a protective system, unless the trench is in stable rock. Trenches less than 5 ft. deep must be inspected by a competent person to determine whether a protective system is required. Protective systems for trenches 20 ft. deep or greater must be designed and/or approved by a registered professional engineer. Protective systems include benching (excavated “steps”), sloping, shoring, and shielding with trench boxes or similar supports.

Before digging, the location of all underground utilities must be established. Safe access and egress – ladders, steps, ramps, etc. – must be provided in trenches 4 ft. or deeper and must be located within 25 ft. of all workers. Heavy equipment must be kept away from trench edges, and excavated materials must be at least 2 ft. from trench edges. Trenches should be inspected at the start of each shift or after a rainstorm, and tested for atmospheric hazards such as low oxygen, fumes, and gases.

About Omni

Omni Instrumentation & Electrical Services, Inc., located in New Jersey and Maryland, is a premier instrumentation and electrical contractor, providing superior total care solutions since 1986. Services include instrument installation, tubing installation, instrument calibration, control loop testing, startup and commissioning, power and lighting, process control wiring, BMS wiring, telecommunications and data wiring, fire alarm wiring, security wiring, process network wiring, and control panel fabrication. Omni Instrumentation & Electrical Services, Inc., is certified in Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus, DeviceNet and ASI-Bus installation.

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