Farming Trench Shoring: A Dangerous Dig, Part 1

By Marie | March 29, 2012

Steel Trench Shield

Construction of farming trenches can be dangerous tasks for workers. If trenching is not done properly, such as lacking trench shields, injuries and deaths can occur through a cave in, asphyxiation due to lack of oxygen, electrocution due to contact with utilities and even drowning. These are just a few of the hazards that can occur when farming trenching is done improperly.

Initial Planning

The proper starting point for safe farm construction trenches is preplanning. Some of the considerations to make before trenching are;

  • Soil Conditions. Look at the condition of the soil before and while you dig. Is it hard and cohesive? Does it crumble easy? Does it break along fissure lines? If so, you most certainly need to invest in a temporary road. Answering these questions will help you make the proper determination of what level of protection you will have to take before sending workers into the trench.
  • Locate utilities. Contact the local utility companies or a utility locater service prior to digging your trench. Utility location can affect the placement of your trench and also the choice of protective equipment and measures you may have to take.
  • Equipment needed. This includes power and hand equipment and tools needed for digging the trench as well as any safety equipment needed such as shoring and oxygen and gas level monitoring devices.
  • Placement of spoils. Decide where you will place your spoils. Decide on a placement of spoils at least 2 feet back from the trench in order to avoid cave-ins from the weight and also roll-back on the workers in the trench. A set-back of spoils will also help prevent equipment mishaps.
  • Access and egress. This is an important part of preplanning for safety. Access and egress should be planned for worker safety. Egress needs to be placed within 25 lateral feet of workers. This can consist of ladders or runways. Runways must meet government standards. Earthen ramps may also be used as long as the worker can walk the ramp upright and they are evaluated by a competent person.


Some equipment needed to properly and safely excavate and work in a trench may include the following;

  • Trench Shield: Before digging, make sure you have a proper available to help support your trench walls.
  • Hand tools. Hand tools will help you dig in tight spots or in areas where a backhoe is not precise enough, such as around utility lines and pipes.
  • Safety equipment. This includes the proper trench shoring for the walls. Harnesses, hardhats, boots and maybe even respirators for the workers. Other safety equipment may include oxygen and gas monitoring devices.

Proper pre-planning and appropriate safety measures are critical in any trenching operation. It is imperative that anyone working a trenching operation familiarize themselves with the proper safety rules and procedures in order to eliminate hazards to themselves, workers and the general public.

Come back next week for Part 2–Constructing a Proper Trench.



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