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Job Site Safety: OSHA Trench Safety Requirements

Safely home. Everyone. Every day. A motto we proudly abide by at Ohio Cat and work diligently to extend to our customers through proper equipment matching and informed employees there to answer any questions. With excavating listed as one of the greatest risks on any construction site according to OSHA, using equipment to help prevent soil from collapsing is vital to maintaining a safe job site and is required for use on digs five feet or greater in depth. At Ohio Cat, our Trench Safety Specialist, Scott Pontious works to make sure safety is a priority with our customers and to help train proper trench and shoring precautions to make sure everyone can make it home at the end of their day.

Here are details of OSHA Trench Box Requirements and different soil classifications to help you make the safest choice for your job site!

Trench boxes offer a safe, OSHA compliant work environment to expedite cast iron pipe, conduit, fiberglass tank and reinforced concrete pipe installation in trenches, restricted right-of-ways, and unstable soil areas. The boxes don’t prevent cave-ins but decrease the probability of a soil collapse trapping a worker. Trench boxes fortify a trench against unstable soil resulting from tension cracks, sliding, bulging and heaving.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that a trench box must be used for all trenching or excavations five feet or greater in depth, and in some cases shallower excavations. Trench boxes must extend eighteen inches above the surface When combined with sloping and be no more than two feet from the bottom of the trench as long as the total depth of the excavation does not surpass the depth rating of the box. Should the trench depth exceed twenty feet, an OSHA trench box requirements stipulate a certified, professional engineer must design the trench box and the Tabulated Data and Design must be available for inspection. Tabulated Date must be at the jobsite during construction on the protective system.

Prior to a contractor excavating a site, the contractor must inspect and classify the soil using visual and manual test procedures. Once the tested soil content is verified, the contractor can use shoring equipment or approved sloping methods to provide additional support for the trench box.

There are four classifications of soil:

Type A Soils: standard, silty, sandy clay and clay loam with a 1.5 tons per square foot (tsf) (144 kPa) or greater of compressive strength.

Type B Soils: angular gravel, silt loam with 0.5 tsf (48 kPa) but less than 1.5 tsf (144 kPa) of compressive strength.

Type C Soils: gravel, sand and loamy sand, submerged soil, water seeping soil, with 0.5 tsf (48 kPa) or less of compressive strength.

Layered Geological Strata; soils are configured in different layers

Another one of OSHA trench box requirements is that the contractor must provide a safe access and egress with the trench box. Ladders, steps, and ramps are to be situated within twenty-five feet of workers to allow a quick exit should the soil collapse.

Understanding the rules of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and using common sense will ensure that trenching and excavating activity will go according to plan without worker injury.

For additional information or to figure out a safety plan for your next job please contact our Trench Safety Specialist Scott Pontious at

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