Tips for excavating a trench include locating all underground utilities before digging, keeping heavy machinery and equipment away the edge of a trench, and maintaining safe entrances and exits to the trench. Other tips include sloping or shoring trench walls to improve stability and making daily inspections of trenches to ensure worker safety.
When measuring and laying out a new trench, ensure that digging and excavation will not interfere with any underground utilities. Mark trench lines with string or flour to ensure accurate measurements and easier digging. Hand tools such as shovels and hoes may be sufficient for smaller trenches and certain soil types, while heavy equipment such as a trenching machine or backhoe are typically needed for larger projects. Ensure trenches intended for pipes are at least 32 to 48 inches below the ground to minimize the risk of freezing.
Larger trenching operations and those that utilize heavy equipment may entail numerous safety hazards. OSHA considers excavation of trenches to be among the most hazardous of all construction operations, with cave-ins posing the greatest risk to worker safety. Installing aluminum, hydraulic or other types of supports to secure the walls of a trench and prevent soil movement can be essential when excavating a larger trench.