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Top 7 Tips For Safer Excavations

14th Jul 2020

Excavation is one of the most dangerous jobs within the construction industry and ensuring the safety of your workers shouldn’t be taken lightly. Failing to properly secure a site can have disastrous after-effects for both workers and managers. 

Works should be carefully planned out and prepared, with all of the proper equipment and materials to be available on-site before commencement. Every site and its development should be directed by a site manager or supervisor, who will carry out inspections on a daily basis to ensure its safety.   

Regular assessments and checks on-site should be taken before any work is conducted. This will significantly reduce the risk of injury and enable the identification of hazards, allowing for preventative measures to be put into place. Weather conditions should also be checked to prevent unnecessary accidents or difficult working environments pre, post or during rainfall and stormy weather. 

The site manager or supervisor should have an explicit understanding of the risks involved in undertaking an excavation and should have the appropriate experience and knowledge to take the necessary precautions.  

Dangers and hazards can include:

At VAC UK, our experienced operators have completed their fair share of excavations. We’ve created this handy guide to keeping safe on-site, which includes a few things to keep an eye out for when working. Whether you’re a seasoned excavator or a complete beginner in the industry, we believe everyone can take something away from this. 

Wear Protective Equipment

Construction sites are reeling with hazards and it is important to make sure that your staff are appropriately protected. This ensures that you don’t run the risk of serious injury, death or personnel taking legal action. Do not allow staff to enter a site without wearing the proper protective equipment. 

Protective equipment includes hard-hats, safety goggles, hearing protection, gloves and safety footwear, such as steel-toed boots and fluorescent jackets. This safety equipment should be inspected on a regular basis to account for wear and tear or damage. Damaged equipment should be replaced immediately and not allowed on site.

Safety Measures

Site managers should ensure the safety of a site by installing a number of safety measures. 

When working on an excavation or a trench, workers should have safe and appropriate access to the site, such as the implementation of ladders, steps, ramps and other means. The walls of trenches and excavations should be supported to prevent cave-ins and barricades, such as mesh wire, sheets or timber, which should be installed to prevent loose rocks, soil and other materials from harming workers. 

To further this, excavated materials should be stored in a designated tipping place far from the walls of the excavation or trench at a minimum of two feet, if space is limited. Storing materials close to the excavation site could result in debris falling inwards, making the sides weaker and more liable to collapse. 

Barriers or restraining devices should also be installed around the excavation to prevent people or vehicles from falling or rolling into the excavation. These barriers should also be strong enough to withstand the weight of a person or vehicle. 

Appropriate lighting and warning signals should also be installed inside or within a close distance for hazard communication and nearby medical facilities should be readily available and easy to access.

Protective Systems

To ensure that your workers are protected from a cave-in, there are four main types of protection:

In the event of a flood or extensive rainfall, precautionary measures should be taken and efficient means of pumping excess fluid from the site should be installed. 

Conduct Atmosphere Tests

It is essential to conduct atmospheric tests before entering an excavation site due to the potential unearthing or trapping of toxic fumes or gases heavier than air. Failure to do so could lead to asphyxiation or poisoning from gases, such as exhaust fumes. If poisonous gases are present, workers must not enter the excavation site or must be provided with a ventilation device.

Be Mindful Of Raised Loads And Heavy Equipment

Ensure that employees stand within an appropriate distance when vehicles are being loaded or unloaded to account for any falling materials or spillage. Personnel should not be working underneath raised loads and heavy equipment.  

Location Of Utilities

To prevent the event of a utility strike throughout an excavation process, cable and pipe locators should be used to determine the location of underground utilities. Once found, these utilities should be supported and identified by tapes and markers above ground, determining their service type and their depth. This will help with the overall planning and execution of your project, improving efficiency and safety on site. 


Always be prepared for your routine checks. Having to check the safety of your staff, the standard of equipment and the condition of your development site day in and day out means that you are more likely to become disinterested and lose focus. This could result in an important check being missed and consequently a potential hazard having a detrimental effect on your progress and even causing harm. 

To ensure that you stay focused and on the ball, prepare a checklist that can be used during your routine audit. This will help in the identification of hazards and preventive measures can be put into place. It is much easier to prevent a hazard or danger than to provide a solution after it’s happened.

How Can VAC UK Help You?

If you are looking to hire a vacuum excavator for your project, VAC UK will be more than happy to help. With years of industry experience, our expert operators will be on hand to support your project from start to finish. 

VAC UK operates the newest fleet of state-of-the-art excavators in the UK, allowing your project to be completed as efficiently and effectively as possible. If you have any questions regarding our services or would like to book your project, then please get in touch. Alternatively, you can give us a call on 0800 047 3994 or email us at

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