Between 2011 and 2015, there were some 800 deaths in the construction industry in the US.  According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, excavation cave-ins cause approximately 1000 work-related injuries each year, of which about 140 resulted in permanent disability, and 75 in death.

Between 2017 and 2018, at least 9 excavation workers were killed due to trench flooding and falling material.

Groundworking contractors are under pressure to perform in a high-risk environment. In everyday terms, this means that a groundworker’s job is dangerous. But just how dangerous? In this article, we explore 5 safety risks inherent in this kind of work.

5 Potential hazards of excavation

  1. Trench collapses

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an average of 2 workers are killed each month due to trench collapses. The threat of cave-ins is a constant danger to worker safety. It is therefore non-negotiable to insure all workers as not only will it save you from bigger loss, but it can extend benefits to the direct families of the affected.

In most cases, you will need to hire a professional engineer or other qualified professionals to ensure that your trench system is as stable as possible. You also need to know what supports are required for your trenches and ensure all safety precautions are in place.

  1. Falls

Excavation sites are under constant risk of falling items. This includes materials that fall onto workers in trenches, such as removed soil falling back into the trench. To mitigate this risk, you should ensure that all materials and removed dirt are stored as far away from trenches as possible. 

There is always a risk of people or machinery falling into open excavation sites. To be safety compliant, you should make sure that there is safe access in and out of the excavation site. Install barriers and safety signage around the trenches, clearly outlining the safety risk. 

  1. Utility line damage

In groundwork, there is the constant risk of hitting underground utility lines and cables. You also face the risk of flooding, electrocution, or explosions from natural gas leaks. Your business could end up liable for property damage and worker injuries or fatalities.

To reduce the risk, you should always consult with your local utility services and have them mark out their utility lines. In most states, making sure that the utility companies mark the lines is a legal requirement.

  1. Flooding 

Flooding is a constant risk when it comes to trench excavation. Any water infiltration can lead to flooding, especially if one of your employees damages a water pipe or utility line. Ensure that you have a pump available, which is easily accessible to drain water away.

  1. Vehicle accidents

Accidents that involve construction vehicles like excavators and dump trucks are a common hazard on excavation sites. This is because operators may have an obstructed view due to the vehicle’s size and may not realize where the trench’s perimeter is.

As construction vehicles are heavy machinery, accidents that involve them can be hazardous and cause physical injury to people on the worksite. To minimize this risk, ensure that you have a spotter, or a flagger designated to guide construction vehicles around the job site.

The importance of being properly insured

Accidents, worker injury or fatalities, damage to materials, or machinery, all of these are common risks that your groundworker business faces. Any on-site accident can open you up to significant financial liability. 

To ensure that you and your business are as protected as much as possible, being fully insured is critical. The correct insurance coverage helps mitigate financial costs in the case of mishaps and other workplace accidents.

Due to the inherent risk involved in the excavation industry and the use of heavy machinery, most states have mandated that ground-working contractors obtain some form of primary insurance. These policies include Worker’s Compensation, Commercial General Liability, and Commercial Auto insurance.

Investigate your insurance options

As a ground-working contractor, it pays not only to carry the legally-mandated policies but to investigate all other insurance coverage available for your business. Discuss your groundworkers contractor insurance requirements with your insurance agent, who can help guide you further. We personally recommend the team at Farmerbrown Insurance and Contractors Liability Insurance as they specialize in this field with utmost professionalism in handling every undertaking.


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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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