Would it surprise you to know that in the first three months of 2018, seven construction workers have died in work-related accidents in Australia? Would it also surprise you to know that two of these deaths occurred in the same accident when a trench they were working in collapsed? While investigations are continuing, what is known is that the trench was 3.2 metres deep and was being constructed at a subdivision site to carry sewer and drainage pipes.
Trenching is Dangerous Work
Trench work is always dangerous with hazards common and well-known, so no judgements should be made until the official investigation is completed. However, there is a wealth of material to guide persons in control of a work site on the methods needed to ensure the safety of workers at the site, as well as members of the public.
This is something we are always mindful of when we are doing excavations and trenching. Dee Gees Bobcats have been in business for well over 20 years, with quality of workmanship sitting alongside safety as two of our key company values.
Planning Should Involve Everyone on Site
Digging a trench safely and effectively starts with planning. Because we do much of our work as a sub-contractor to a larger company, consultation with all key parties is critical. Besides our company, the principal contractor will consult with other sub-contractors, mobile plant operators, workers and safety personnel, as well as structural and possibly geotechnical engineers.
Scheduling and Co-ordinating the Next Step
Scheduling and co-ordinating the work is next, and if the trench depth is to be 1.5 metres or more, the work may be deemed high-risk construction work, requiring a Safe Work Method Statement to be developed. If the work is not classed as high-risk, that is, the trench will be less than 1.5 metres deep, a risk assessment should be done to identify the hazards present.
Risk Assessments Needed to Develop Control Measures
Control measures to manage these hazards are then developed, which should include the potential injuries from a trench collapse, the nature of the excavation, the soil type, the proposed safe methods to do the work and the means of entry and exit to the excavation. Checks are also made to locate any underground essential services such as water or gas lines, as well as communications cabling.
The Last Steps before Digging Starts
Next, the actual siting and setting up of the workplace is done, followed by giving safety instructions on how to work in the trench. Note that during this preparation phase, no actual trench digging has started. If these procedures are followed, accidents like those mentioned earlier are very unlikely, and that is just the way we like it.