Excavation Safety - Inspect your workspace from top to bottom

Before construction begins on any site, it’s a good idea to walk through your work.  Excavation is a tricky operation because the operator must focus on surface down; however, some of the worst possible accidents can occur above the equipment.


First, have the utilities identified by the marking service operating in your area or state.


Overhead wires, cables, tree branches or structures can be struck by the boom if not properly managed.  A walk-through helps select the proper equipment and point of attack.


Start by looking up.  Any problems such as wires?  Note them in the instructions for your operator.


Bring your eyes down to boom swing level.  Parking areas, decks, office trailers, anything that can get hit by a boom needs to be noted.


Bring the utilities maps, existing and proposed, and double check locations.  The markers and you can both make errors in location.  Are all electrical lines and fiber optics located and in agreement with the utility plans?  Any high pressure gas lines or pipelines?


Use white marking paint to layout your workspace.  Can you excavate, load trucks and stockpile fill logically and safely?  Ample ingress and egress for trucks?  Minimum of trucks backing up?


Map the entire process out, make notes, and share them with your operator.


Okay, so why check from the top down?


The focus shifts to the trench, basement, utility or whatever operation you're performing so naturally, that many people forget the big picture.  The focus of the crew tends to stay downward once the operation begins.  It is important to design the operation so the overhead exposures remain minimally invasive.


Any time in the process that the unexpected is encountered, for example the fiber optic line is twenty feet from where it shows on the existing plan, begin the inspection over again from that spot.  Look up and begin.


Too many accidents occur when the equipment moves to accommodate a seemingly small adjustment, but nobody checks all three dimensions where the equipment operates.  Get into the habit of top down.


Usually, installations begin from the lowest elevation and move to the highest.  If you inspect from the top down, you will anticipate the shortest "ceiling" you'll be working under.  Mark that spot mentally and with white paint.  That will be your most dangerous above ground impediment.


Remember: top down inspections for safe digging.

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