Excavation can be very dangerous and there are many hazards to avoid. Workplace safety is extremely important and by following some simple rules, guidelines, practices and techniques you can turn a hazardous excavation site into an extremely safe workplace.
There are many factors that can contribute to a dangerous excavation site such as weather. If there is lots of rain or fog this can inhibit visibility for the excavator operator and spotters. Also rain will make your excavation site muddy which creates the danger of your excavator sinking, tipping or slipping. Extreme cold can make an excavation site icey which creates slippery conditions. Also ice is extremely hard to dig and pay produce projectiles. Heat can also be an issue as excavator operators and spotters spend many continuous hours in the sun. Another hazard to be careful of is the slope of the excavation site. Working on hills or extreme slopes can be very dangerous for excavators. As excavators have a high centre of gravity they are prone to tipping over if the operator is not careful. There is often a major risk of contact with live electrical wire, whether they are underground or overhead. Not only is there danger to personal safety on an excavation site but there is also a danger to property, expensive utility’s and machinery.
The first thing in excavation safety is to make sure you have the proper excavation equipment and manpower for the specific excavation application. For instance if you have a large excavator but only a narrow access you will risk property damage or damage to the excavator if it is to big to fit through the access or has to take a dangerous route into the site. On the flip side if your excavator is too small for the given job you may risk tipping or damage to the machine. If you are working near structures, underground or overhead utilities you will need a spotter some make sure you have enough manpower for the job. If the excavation site and job is complex or there are adverse conditions such as slopes or weather make sure you have an experienced and skilled excavator operator to avoid any unnecessary risks.
All excavators must have a proper safety and maintenance inspection daily to avoid costly repairs or risks to operators. Hydraulic levels must be full on the excavator. The excavator should be topped up with grease on every grease nipple. Windows should be cleaned. Excavator tracks should be in good working condition and cleared of any mud, rocks or debris. Fuel levels should be checked and on site reserves should be adequate. Any mechanical issues should be dealt with and repaired before work is started.
At the commencement of an excavation project a site safety evaluation should be conducted to evaluate any possible risks. Then create a plan to avoid and deal with any such risks. Call before you dig to find any underground utilities that must be avoided. Once a safety plan is in place you can start the excavation.
In most cases a spotter will be needed to work with your experienced excavator operator. A spotter is someone who will work in tandem with an excavator to be a on the ground look out for any dangers or risks such as underground or overhead utilities, buildings, structures, machinery, and other workers on the excavation site. All workers on the excavation site should be outfitted with hi visibility clothing, CSA approved work boots, safety glasses and gloves. Workers also must be dressed properly for the weather.
When working in adverse conditions operators must work carefully and slowly. For Instance if working in muddy conditions the excavator operator may want to clear excess mud before commencing work, or avoid those areas altogether until it has dried out. If the ground is frozen the excavator should use a bucket with teeth in order to break through the icy surface. This will minimize possible projectiles and make digging easier. When working on hills the excavator should never put itself in a precarious position. The excavator operator should plan their route ahead of time and make sure the excavator is always balanced and on solid footing.
Excavators are not toys and are extremely powerful and heavy pieces of machinery. Managers, Workers and excavator operators should always have safety as their top priority.