Some Notes on Trench Safety

Three days of soaking the soil with water worked wonders, and today I got the future greenhouse moisture pit down to final depth. I still need to widen it to accept the concrete liners.

The Pit

Doesn't look like much, but it's about thirty inches deep and two feet on a side at the bottom. Here's the discard pile, soon to be used in another earthworks project along the side of the house (Operation Dry Pathway).

The Pile

Just to be clear: I have not stood in the pit. I'm not really planning to if it's possible to avoid standing in it. There are some very simple rules of thumb for safely working in pits in your own garden:

  1. Never get into a hole deeper than your waist without another person nearby and a ladder
  2. Never get into a hole deeper than three feet without having engineered shoring hold up the sides
  3. Never put your head below the surface of the soil

This stuff isn't, like, super-safe, over-cautious behaviour. It's a bare minimum to keep you from being killed by collapsing dirt, which can happen a lot faster and stronger than you can imagine. I generally don't get into any pit I can't walk out of comfortably. So I'm planning to widen my little pit from the surface, which makes it a bit slower. But you know, slow and alive is a pretty nice combination. Please be very careful around holes.

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posted by ayse on 09/24/06

2 Comments

Actually from the safety stand point of a fire fighter, I would not recommend standing in a hole deeper than your knees without some one standing nearby. There are so many variables in trench rescue that we take into consideration. The most damage in a trench rescue comes from a crush injury. So it is better to play it safe.

Well, that is the difference between cautious behaviour and a bare minimum. Very basic safety is about not being killed immediately. Dirt up to your waist collapsing is likely to smash your feet and legs up right good, but you'll still be alive.

It was pointed out in e-mail that another peril of holes, often overlooked, is the danger of simply pitching in head first. So also be careful walking around holes.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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