Excavation Protective Systems: How We Make Excavation Safety a Top Priority

Excavation Protective Systems: How We Make Excavation Safety a Top Priority

At Kleenco Construction, land clearing and excavation are among our specialties, and we take great pride in providing superior work under safe conditions. We employ many excavation protective systems tailored to each project. After all, excavation jobs involve so much more than simply moving dirt around.

Excavation involves a detailed process in which soil is removed to an appropriate depth to construct a new foundation. Our process involves risk and liability assessment before we ever start the project. This allows us to determine the most effective method to protect worker safety while getting the job done right.

What are the Most Common Excavation Risks?

The greatest risks associated with excavation jobs include:

  • Collapse of the excavation site
  • The large and powerful machines used to dig up the land
  • Electrical hazards—from overhead or underground power-lines
  • Underground utilities, such as natural gas
  • Failing loads
  • Hazardous atmospheres

The OSHA classifies an excavation site as a man-made cavity, trench, depression, or cut made in the earth’s surface. A trench, more specifically, is a narrow cut that is deeper than it is wide, with a maximum width of 15-feet measured from the bottom. An excavation of this size presents the greatest risk for collapse. After all, one cubic yard of soil can weigh the same as a fully functional automobile. Certain measures should always be put in place to reduce risks as much as possible.

4 Excavation Protective Systems

According to OSHA requirements, all trench excavation sites that measure 4 feet or deeper must utilize safe access and egress for employees. That includes steps, ladders, ramps, etc., located within 25-feet of every single worker.

Unless the excavation is based in stable rock, any trench that measures over 5-feet deep requires a protective system of some type. If the trench is over 20 feet deep, the protective system must be designed based upon data either prepared or approved by a professional engineer.

Here are several different types of protective measures used to reduce the risk of hazards when trenching or excavating a site.


This is a process in which the sides of the excavation area are cut to form one or more horizontal steps or levels.


This excavation protective system entails cutting away the trench wall at an angle so that it moves at an incline opposite of the excavation site.


A more in-depth process that includes properly shaping the land and installing some form of support to keep soil in place. Aluminum hydraulic is commonly installed for this type of protective system.


By implementing trench boxes, or similar support systems, you can reduce the risk of soil cave-ins.

Best protective measures vary based on project & site specifications

No two projects or job sites are the same, and therefore the best protective measure will vary from project to project. There are several factors we use to help shape the proper design of a support system, such as:

  • Soil classification—what type of soil are we working with?
  • How deep is the excavation?
  • What is the moisture content of soil?
  • Local weather and climate changes
  • Surcharge loads—or rather, what other types of materials will be used in the trench?
  • Are there other operations ongoing in the area?

Additional Excavation Protective Measures

  • Heavy equipment is never placed near the edges of a trench, and surcharge loads are kept at least 2-feet away from the trench edge.
  • Prior to any digging, it is important to obtain confirmed knowledge of underground utilities and their exact placement.
  • In trenches that exceed four feet deep, atmospheric hazards (such as toxic gasses, hazardous fumes, or low oxygen levels) are tested for.
  • Trenches are carefully inspected at the start of each workday. Especially following a rainstorm or any moisture-producing weather, as well as any other event that could potentially impact trench conditions.
  • Workers should never operate beneath suspended or raised loads

At Kleenco Construction, We Take Safety Seriously

We believe project success is realized through high quality work, attention to detail, and practices that protect everyone’s safety. Our excavation services are varied and include asphalt and concrete placements and repairs, utility installations, egress and ingress easements, road installations, and so forth. Contact us today to learn more or get a quote.