Grading & Excavation Contractor

Saving Lives With Shoring: Stories From the Trenches

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Construction- Jobsite Infrastructure
Credit: Kundel
Aluminum might be appropriate for light, one-man operations, but steel is the proper choice for anything larger.
According to OSHA, trench collapses kill two workers each month. Facing those harsh statistics can weigh heavily on the mind of any contractor. This is why shoring might be the most important aspect to the trenching process.

OSHA defines a trench as any cut in the earth of at least 5 feet in depth.

Shoring protects a crew working within a trench, from having soil collapse on top of them.

Among the most popular products Josh Brown, an inside sales representative for Protec Equipment, sells at Pro-Tec are the aluminum hydraulic vertical shoring systems. The basic design of the system is two flat, aluminum rails connected in the middle by a horizontal, hydraulic cylinder, which pushes in each direction applying pressure to the trench walls in order to prevent the soil from collapsing. Hydraulic shoring is popular because it doesn’t require workers to go into a trench to install them. They also help take advantage of a soil’s natural cohesion to keep the trench from collapsing.

According to OSHA, trench collapses kill two workers each month. Facing those harsh statistics can weigh heavily on the mind of any contractor. This is why shoring might be the most important aspect to the trenching process. OSHA defines a trench as any cut in the earth of at least 5 feet in depth. Shoring protects a crew working within a trench, from having soil collapse on top of them. Among the most popular products Josh Brown, an inside sales representative for Protec Equipment, sells at Pro-Tec are the aluminum hydraulic vertical shoring systems. The basic design of the system is two flat, aluminum rails connected in the middle by a horizontal, hydraulic cylinder, which pushes in each direction applying pressure to the trench walls in order to prevent the soil from collapsing. Hydraulic shoring is popular because it doesn't require workers to go into a trench to install them. They also help take advantage of a soil's natural cohesion to keep the trench from collapsing. [text_ad] Mitch Post, training and development manager at Mabey Inc. , says old school attitudes on trench safety can contribute to on the job fatalities. "OSHA did a 10-year study of excavation fatalities, and in that study they just took a look at every excavation fatality that happened in an excavation collapse in this country, and in 24% of those, they had a protective system and it wasn't used properly," he says. "Of all those excavation fatalities, there were absolutely none in excavations where there was a protective system that was properly used." Shoring measures are common protective systems for crews working within a trench. Post says Mabey offers a reliable line of shoring systems. "Hydraulic shoring equipment is a super-versatile system, and it can be used to shore anywhere from small excavations up to very large pits. The hydraulics are what make it very versatile and easy to install. And hydraulics allow you to put positive pressure on the soil. So regardless of the size of your excavation, you can use a hydraulic sheet and frame shoring system to prevent soil movement all the way around and ensure that you have a safe working environment," he says. From his experience at Mabey Inc., Post recalls, "In my six years in this business, we've never had anything like that happen with one of our customers. It seems a large percentage of excavation fatalities a lot of them were cases where the contractor was not using a protective system—at all." Prevention of soil cave-ins isn't the only worry for a contractor. It's also important to keep the trench as dry as possible. Sheet piling is popular method of shoring a trench in sandy conditions with groundwater present. One of its biggest advantages is that it minimizes the water that enters the trench. Post has had experience with that as well. "Driving sheet piling is a huge part of the excavation business. That's one of the more common ways to protect excavations. It's fast, it's fairly easy, and it's very versatile. It's great to use in areas where there's groundwater. It's great to use in areas where there are very high soil pressures from running sands. You can completely close off an excavation with sheet piling. So not only are you protecting workers from the soil pressures and potential collapse, you're also able to exclude things like water and running sand to keep them from coming into your excavation." Joe Moser works as the product manager with Atlas Copco Construction and understands the importance of keeping a trench as dry as possible. "Pumps are critical when trenching and shoring because they remove groundwater as it accumulates, which can happen quickly. Water can loosen soil in a trench, which could cause its walls to collapse if shoring isn't in place," states Moser. "Keeping water out of the trench also ensures contractors have a solid and safe surface to walk through, and it gives them a clear view to the bottom of the trench, which is important when digging and placing materials, such as pipes." Moser continues by discussing the importance of keeping pumps well-maintained for cost-savings purposes. "It's a good idea to choose pumps that are built with durable materials, such as double mechanical seals, which provide a consistent, watertight interface. We also offer stainless steel seals, which last longer and are more durable than rubber seals. This makes them great for use on shoring and trenching sites, which can have some harsh conditions. Also look for mechanisms that stop the unit if it overheats or an electric current overloads the pump. On most of our models, the pump will restart automatically after it has cooled. This protects the motor from damage and extends the life of the pump." Schuermann, the Ditch Witch trencher and compact equipment product manager, talks more about the hassle of dealing with water that has seeped into the trench. "Rain is big factor. If you get rain overnight, or before you can install your product, depending on your soil condition, whether it was rocky or sandy, loose soil, you're going to have some runoff back into that trench, either filling the trench with water or causing some of the dirt to sluff off back into that trench, ultimately causing you to re-dig that trench and pull those spoils out." Schuermann thinks most of his customers use Ditch Witch trenchers in one day, and don't encounter problems with long-term trench maintenance. He also says his customers don't generally use his trenchers to dig holes deep enough for workers to enter. Still, situations arise when a customer needs to do so. [text_ad use_post='27747'] Lewis says his hydraulic cutters not only help to dig trenches, but they also efficiently shore them. "When you actually have a cutter, what you're left with are perfect 90 degree elbow joints on your trenches, meaning you have perfect vertical walls," says Lewis. "It doesn't disturb the surrounding ground, so when you actually go to cut the trench, you're left with very vertical, straight walls on the side." Nick DiPaolo, Sunbelt Rentals' vice president of sales, says most of his rentals for trench projects are for walk behind trenchers that are generally used with shallow digs, as well as trench rollers to smooth the trench bottom and help prevent its collapse. Some of Sunbelt's rollersare remote operated, which helps cut down on injuries and tragedies in case a trench collapses. A bonus for Antraquip's cutters is the ability to grind rocks into materials that the contractor can later use for backfill. "Obviously, what you're hoping, once the product is installed and in the ground, just trying to leave the job site as if you weren't there in the first place," says Schuermann. Hagenbuch agrees. His Rolling Wedge not only provides the cleanest cut of all trenchers on the market, he says it provides the right backfill dirt to finish the job. "We create a much better backfill material through our cutting process," says Hagenbuch. "It's a much smoother material and it's a much more granular material. It's not chunky. Backfill material needs to be uniform, it needs to be fairly fine, and it needs to have a nice mix to it." GX_bug_web

Mitch Post, training and development manager at Mabey Inc. , says old school attitudes on trench safety can contribute to on the job fatalities. “OSHA did a 10-year study of excavation fatalities, and in that study they just took a look at every excavation fatality that happened in an excavation collapse in this country, and in 24% of those, they had a protective system and it wasn’t used properly,” he says. “Of all those excavation fatalities, there were absolutely none in excavations where there was a protective system that was properly used.”

Shoring measures are common protective systems for crews working within a trench.

Post says Mabey offers a reliable line of shoring systems. “Hydraulic shoring equipment is a super-versatile system, and it can be used to shore anywhere from small excavations up to very large pits. The hydraulics are what make it very versatile and easy to install. And hydraulics allow you to put positive pressure on the soil. So regardless of the size of your excavation, you can use a hydraulic sheet and frame shoring system to prevent soil movement all the way around and ensure that you have a safe working environment,” he says.

From his experience at Mabey Inc., Post recalls, “In my six years in this business, we’ve never had anything like that happen with one of our customers. It seems a large percentage of excavation fatalities a lot of them were cases where the contractor was not using a protective system—at all.”

Prevention of soil cave-ins isn’t the only worry for a contractor. It’s also important to keep the trench as dry as possible. Sheet piling is popular method of shoring a trench in sandy conditions with groundwater present. One of its biggest advantages is that it minimizes the water that enters the trench. Post has had experience with that as well. “Driving sheet piling is a huge part of the excavation business. That’s one of the more common ways to protect excavations. It’s fast, it’s fairly easy, and it’s very versatile. It’s great to use in areas where there’s groundwater. It’s great to use in areas where there are very high soil pressures from running sands. You can completely close off an excavation with sheet piling. So not only are you protecting workers from the soil pressures and potential collapse, you’re also able to exclude things like water and running sand to keep them from coming into your excavation.”

Joe Moser works as the product manager with Atlas Copco Construction and understands the importance of keeping a trench as dry as possible. “Pumps are critical when trenching and shoring because they remove groundwater as it accumulates, which can happen quickly. Water can loosen soil in a trench, which could cause its walls to collapse if shoring isn’t in place,” states Moser. “Keeping water out of the trench also ensures contractors have a solid and safe surface to walk through, and it gives them a clear view to the bottom of the trench, which is important when digging and placing materials, such as pipes.”

Moser continues by discussing the importance of keeping pumps well-maintained for cost-savings purposes. “It’s a good idea to choose pumps that are built with durable materials, such as double mechanical seals, which provide a consistent, watertight interface. We also offer stainless steel seals, which last longer and are more durable than rubber seals. This makes them great for use on shoring and trenching sites, which can have some harsh conditions. Also look for mechanisms that stop the unit if it overheats or an electric current overloads the pump. On most of our models, the pump will restart automatically after it has cooled. This protects the motor from damage and extends the life of the pump.”

Schuermann, the Ditch Witch trencher and compact equipment product manager, talks more about the hassle of dealing with water that has seeped into the trench. “Rain is big factor. If you get rain overnight, or before you can install your product, depending on your soil condition, whether it was rocky or sandy, loose soil, you’re going to have some runoff back into that trench, either filling the trench with water or causing some of the dirt to sluff off back into that trench, ultimately causing you to re-dig that trench and pull those spoils out.”

Schuermann thinks most of his customers use Ditch Witch trenchers in one day, and don’t encounter problems with long-term trench maintenance. He also says his customers don’t generally use his trenchers to dig holes deep enough for workers to enter. Still, situations arise when a customer needs to do so.

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Lewis says his hydraulic cutters not only help to dig trenches, but they also efficiently shore them. “When you actually have a cutter, what you’re left with are perfect 90 degree elbow joints on your trenches, meaning you have perfect vertical walls,” says Lewis. “It doesn’t disturb the surrounding ground, so when you actually go to cut the trench, you’re left with very vertical, straight walls on the side.”

Nick DiPaolo, Sunbelt Rentals’ vice president of sales, says most of his rentals for trench projects are for walk behind trenchers that are generally used with shallow digs, as well as trench rollers to smooth the trench bottom and help prevent its collapse. Some of Sunbelt’s rollersare remote operated, which helps cut down on injuries and tragedies in case a trench collapses.

A bonus for Antraquip’s cutters is the ability to grind rocks into materials that the contractor can later use for backfill.

“Obviously, what you’re hoping, once the product is installed and in the ground, just trying to leave the job site as if you weren’t there in the first place,” says Schuermann.

Hagenbuch agrees. His Rolling Wedge not only provides the cleanest cut of all trenchers on the market, he says it provides the right backfill dirt to finish the job.

“We create a much better backfill material through our cutting process,” says Hagenbuch. “It’s a much smoother material and it’s a much more granular material. It’s not chunky. Backfill material needs to be uniform, it needs to be fairly fine, and it needs to have a nice mix to it.” GX_bug_web

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