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News

HSE urges greater awareness of trench collapse dangers

HSE InfoLine : 19 August, 2004  (Company News)
The Health and Safety Executive is reminding construction workers of the dangers they face when working in excavations following recent fatalities caused by trench collapses.
The Health and Safety Executive is reminding construction workers of the dangers they face when working in excavations following recent fatalities caused by trench collapses.

There have been three fatal incidents since April where workers have been killed due to trenches collapsing on top of them. These could have been avoided if the appropriate safety measures had been taken.

HSE Specialist Inspector Nigel Thorpe said:
'Trench collapses are entirely avoidable. Without suitable support, any face of an excavation will collapse; it's just a matter of when. The steeper and deeper the face, the wetter the soil, the sooner the collapse.'

'Trenchless technologies are available which avoid many of the hazards of excavation, but if a trench is required modern proprietary systems allow the ground support to be installed without the need to enter the excavation.'

Practical advice on working in excavations is available from HSE, and includes:

if appropriate, using trenchless technology such as directional drilling or impact moling, to avoid the need to excavate a trench in the first place;
if a trench is used, preventing the sides and the ends of trenches from collapsing by battering them to a safe angle or supporting them with proprietary support systems, trench sheets or timber;
providing suitable edge protection to prevent persons or materials falling into the excavation, and not entering unsupported excavations;
avoiding surcharging the ground adjacent to the excavation with plant, stored materials, spoil or foundation loads from existing structures;
never working ahead of the support;
ensuring there is a suitable means of access and egress;
remembering that work in shallow trenches can be dangerous, i.e. if the work involves bending or kneeling in the trench; and
locating existing services in the vicinity of and above the line of the excavation.
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