Two safety tips to keep in mind when using an excavator to dig a trench

If you plan to use an excavator to dig a trench for a building's foundation, here are some important safety tips that you should bear in mind.

Be aware of the fact that the soil may contain buried cables 

If you use an excavator to dig into a patch of soil, there is a risk that the excavator may come into contact with, and then tear through, some electrical cables that have been buried in that soil. If these cables are live and the excavator cuts through them, the person operating this machinery could be electrocuted. Excavators are mostly made from metal, which is an excellent conductor. As such, the moment the metal bucket touches a live wire, the electricity will flow through that metal and will potentially reach the operator (if this individual is in direct contact with any metal component in the excavator).

If you suspect that the area of the plot where the trench needs to be made may contain cables, you should instruct the operator of the machinery to work very slowly and cautiously when digging up the soil in this area. Specifically, they should scrape off the soil, layer by layer. After each layer has been removed, a worker on the ground next to the equipment should check the newly exposed soil for signs of cabling.

Only when they have confirmed that the soil is free from any electrical lines should the operator then proceed to remove the next layer of soil. If the person does discover cabling at any point during this process, the operator should stop using the excavator and instead use manual tools (like shovels, for example) to extract the soil from the area where the cables are located.

Provide all those working in the trench with high-visibility vests

Oftentimes, workers will need to climb into the partially finished trench in between the periods when the excavator is being used to dig into it. This can be highly dangerous, as the equipment operator may not be able to see into the trench and spot the workers inside it, from their vantage point in the cab, if these individuals are not wearing clothing that is highly visible.

As such, it is possible that when the operator switches the equipment back on and begins to lower the bucket into the trench, they may end up striking one of these workers, simply because they do not realise that they are in there.

One simple solution to this issue is to provide any workers who may need to enter the trench during the excavation process with high-visibility vests. These reflective, bright-coloured garments will make these individuals far easier for the person controlling the excavator to spot, even during periods of the workday when it is cloudy or dark.