Excavation Safety Checklist

Excavations are dangerous areas of work that put workers in harms way. Use this checklist as a baseline reference to ensure worker's safety.

Question Response Type
1. Has DigAlert been notified of this work? Yes No N/A
2. If yes, are all the areas of existing utilities accurately represented? Yes No N/A
3. Does the soil show any signs of weakening? ie cracks, sloughing, etc Yes No N/A
4. Is the excavation deeper than 4'? Yes No N/A
5. If yes, what shoring system is being utilized to ensure there are no cave-ins? Text Answer
6. Is there safe access into and out of the excavation? Yes No N/A
7. In case of an emergency, is there a rescue plan in place? Yes No N/A
8. Will there be any hotwork performed inside the excavation? Yes No N/A
9. If so, have measures been taken to ensure that oxygen levels stay at appropriate levels? Yes No N/A

What are common types of excavation?

Excavation can be classified by the material being excavated, or by the purpose of work. Some common materials that are excavated include:

  • Topsoil
  • Earth
  • Rock
  • Muck
  • Some common examples of excavation by project include:

  • Bridge
  • Drainage/structure
  • Borrow
  • Footing
  • Understanding the type of excavation project you’ll be working on means you can evaluate which equipment to use, as well as understand the unique hazards involved.

    What is the difference between excavation and trenching?

    An excavation is any depression or cavity caused by digging or the removal of earth. Trenching is a specific type of excavation: a narrow excavation. Trenching is deeper than it is wide, making it a suitable walking area. Trenching, however, does not exceed 15 feet in depth.

    What are examples of common hazards in an excavation site?

    Excavation sites can present a variety of hazards. These are a few examples:

  • Cave-ins
  • Underground utilities
  • Reduced oxygen levels
  • Falls into trenches or excavations
  • Falling objects
  • Excavation can quickly become life-threatening if safety precautions are not followed.

    Who is a competent person, and what is their role in excavation?

    A competent person is someone who can recognize current and potential hazards. They also have the authority to take immediate action if a hazard is identified. A competent person inspects trenches daily, before any workers are allowed access to the trenches. If there are any significant changes, say in weather conditions, this person will again inspect for any new hazards.

    At what depth in excavation are safety systems required?

    Anytime excavation is five feet or deeper (unless excavation is in stable rock), safety systems are required. When working at depths of 20 feet or more, additional measures must be taken—this could include a registered professional engineer designing the protective system.

    Examples of protective systems include:

  • Benching
  • Sloping
  • Shoring
  • Shielding
  • What are examples of safe access points?

    OSHA requires safe access or egress points within 25 feet of any worker when working in trench areas that are four feet or deeper. Examples of common access points include:

  • Ladders
  • Steps
  • Ramps
  • All points of egress must be designed by a competent and qualified person.

    What other resources can help improve my jobsite safety?

    Daily construction safety checklists and safety training are essential in maintaining workers’ safety on jobsites.

    Digital checklist templates (like this one) ensure all proper procedures are both followed and documented. Additionaly, toolbox talks help to educate teams on safety topics and requirements. To streamline the process for safety trainings, consider a digital library and scheduling tool.

    See how this checklist works in the app

    There’s an easier way to find and complete construction checklists—and we'd love to walk you through it in a personalized demo. (All demos come with a 15-day free trial, too.)

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