New York State Local Technical Assistance Program

What are ways to protect against trench cave-ins?

Dangerous trench set up

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that more than two workers are killed each month nationwide in trench collapses. To minimize the potential for a collapse, OSHA identifies several methods for promoting work safety in trenches.

When working around an excavated trench, keep excavation spoils and equipment at least two feet from the edge of the trench. Also, an escape path must be provided for every 25 feet of trench. This allows for a quick exit by workers in the event of a problem.

A competent worker should inspect trenches daily and whenever conditions change. OSHA defines a competent person as someone who is:


OSHA Quick card: Working Safely in Trenches
Competent Person
Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Urban Hydrology for Small Watersheds
Natural Resources Conservation Service

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This work by the Cornell Local Roads Program (CLRP) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.