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Excavation and Trenching Safety


    The purpose of this procedure is to establish guidelines for the location and identification of underground utilities and the proper issuance of Excavation Permits prior to any ground breaking operations by contractors or university employees. Reference: 29 CFR: 1926.650, 1926.651, 1926.652, 1926 Subpart P Appendices A, B, C, D, E, and F.


    ACCEPTED ENGINEERING PRACTICES - means those requirements which are compatible with standards of practice required by a registered professional engineer.

    CAVE-IN - means the separation of a mass of soil or rock material from the side of an excavation, or the loss of soil from under a trench shield or support system, and its sudden movement into the excavation, either by falling or sliding, in sufficient quantity so that it could entrap, bury, or otherwise injure and immobilize a person.

    COMPETENT PERSON - means someone who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to associates and who has the authority to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.

    EXCAVATION - means digging, boring, post driving, or any other operation that penetrates below the surface of the ground. This includes the removal of trees, bushes, sidewalks, etc. that could damage buried utilities.

    PROTECTIVE SYSTEM - means a method of protecting associates form cave-ins, from material that could fall or roll from an excavation face or into an excavation, or from the collapse of adjacent structures. Protective systems include support systems, sloping and benching systems, shield systems, and other systems that provide the necessary protection.

    TRENCHING - means a specific form of excavation. A trench is a narrow excavation (in relation to its length) made below the surface of the ground. In general, the depth is greater than the width, but the width of a trench (measured at the bottom) is not greater than 15 feet (4.6 m). If forms or other structures are installed or constructed in an excavation so as to reduce the dimension measured from the forms or structure to the side of the excavation to 15 feet(4.6 m) or less (measured at the bottom of the excavation), the excavation is also considered to be a trench.


    1. The Director of Facilities Management is responsible for the overall implementation of this procedure.

    2. The Assistant Director for Operations and Service Managers are responsible to ensure that all utility systems are properly maintained, that all Excavation Permits (see attachment) are properly reviewed and that all Facilities Management departments are aware of the details of this procedure.

    3. The Competent Person is responsible for designing support systems and for choosing the best option for sloping or benching the faces of an excavation when required.

    4. The Engineering Manager shall ensure that all university utility drawings are maintained accurately and are up-to-date and appoint an individual to serve as Competent Person for trenching activities.

    5. The Engineering Utilities Technician shall issue excavation permits to the excavator, ensure that all affected utilities are physically located and marked on site in order to ensure (to the maximum extent possible) that utilities systems are not damaged during the course of the project and instruct contractors to contact MISS UTILITY as required by state law.

    6. The Engineering Design Drafting Technician shall ensure that excavation permits are properly prepared.

    7. The Director of Telecommunications shall ensure that telecommunications utilities are identified on Excavation Permits.

    8. The Project Manager, B&G Supervisor, or Landscape Supervisor responsible for any project that involves excavation shall coordinate the notification of all affected university departments and initiate the process. If a utility is damaged, the Project Manager is to take immediate action to ensure safety and correction of the damage.

    9. The FM Associate shall have in his/her possession a complete, valid and signed Excavation Permit and be familiar with the details of this procedure before any sub-surface work begins.


    1. The Project Manager and the Procurement Department shall ensure that the following paragraph is included in the bid documents for all contract work requiring excavation:

      EXCAVATION PERMITS - no digging, boring, or post driving is allowed on University property without prior written approval of the Facilities Management Engineering Office, Service Manager(s) Office, and the University Telecommunication Office. Approval requires that the Contractor (or Subcontractor) obtain a JMU Excavation Permit from the Engineering Utilities Technician with signatures FROM ALL THREE OFFICES, a minimum of five workdays PRIOR to excavation. IN ADDITION, any work within a City of Harrisonburg right-of way requires a Permit from the City Engineer's Office. The Permit(s) must be available at the job site. Any holes left after excavation (i.e. test boring holes) shall be completely filled and compacted to prevent settlement. Failure to comply with these requirements will result in work shutdown, repair of damages by the contractor, and may result in a fine, contract termination, and/or default. Call the JMU Facilities Management Engineering for details at 568-3582. The Contractor shall be responsible for notifying MISS UTILITY by phone at 1-800-552-7001.

    2. The Project Manager shall be notified at least five (5) days in advance of the start of excavation by a contractor or university department that will be performing the work. If there is no assigned Project Manager (i.e. Landscape Department work), then the person requiring the work shall notify the Engineering Utilities Technician at least three (3) days in advance.

    3. The Engineering Design Drafting Technician will make a copy of a portion of the Campus Map showing, in detail, the area to be excavated. All known utilities and the proposed area of excavation will be shown on this map. The Engineering Design Drafting Technician will affix the Excavation Permit stamp to the drawing. (See Attachment A.)

    4. The Project Manager (or Engineering Utilities Technician for Landscape work) shall designate the Project Number and the Excavation Contractor on the Permit Stamp. The Project Manager, or other staff member of the Engineering staff shall sign the permit stamp when confident that all utilities have been shown in the area of excavation.

    5. The Engineering Utilities Technician shall take the Permit to Maintenance for concurrence and signature. The Service Manager(s), Supervisor(s), Plumbing or Electric Shop Leadman shall review the Permit and sign it when the accuracy of utilities shown is confirmed.

    6. The Engineering Utilities Technician shall take the Permit to the Telecommunications Office for concurrence and signature. The Director of Telecommunications or his designee shall review the Permit and sign it when the accuracy of utilities shown is confirmed.

    7. All Utilities in close proximity to work shall be identified with the appropriate color paint at the site by the engineering Utilities Technician. Color coding is as follows: Red - electric, Yellow - gas, oil and steam, Orange - communications, Blue - water, Green - sewer and storm drains.

    8. Permits for contractor work shall be returned to the Engineering Department prior to issuance. The Engineering Department shall make two copies of the Permit. One copy shall be put in the Project File, and one copy shall be given to the Project Manager. A copy of this procedure shall be attached to the original Permit and provided as a package to the contractor via an Engineering transmittal. If any changes to the original permit drawing have been made by Buildings and Grounds or by Telecommunications, a copy shall also be provided to the Engineering Design Drafting Technician to update the campus map(s).

    9. The Engineering Utilities Technician responsible for the project shall notify MISS UTILITY by phone at 1-800-552-7001 when planning excavations to be conducted by the university.

    10. The associate or contractor performing work shall not penetrate the surface without a completed, valid and signed Excavation Permit in his/her possession on the job site.

    11. Involvement of Facilities Management staff and the Contractor during an excavation project is governed by this procedure. The Project manager and contractor shall ensure that all open holes during the excavation are properly protected by barricades. Any open holes after excavation (i.e. test boring holes) shall be properly filled with rock dust and compacted to prevent later settlement.

    12. The Project Manager or Engineering Utilities Technician shall note any utility changes or additions discovered during the excavation process on his copy of the Permit. Such changes are to be provided to the Engineering Design Drafting Technician and incorporated on the campus utility map(s) located in the Engineering Office. These updates shall include the date of change.

    13. The Engineering Design Drafting Technician and the Engineering Utilities Technician shall periodically (at least quarterly) review the updated campus utility maps, completed Excavation Permits and revise the master AutoCAD Campus Map as necessary.

    14. Excavations (Trenching is a form of excavation.) have the following specific requirements:

      1. A stairway, ladder, or ramp or other safe means of egress shall be located in trench excavations that are 4 feet (1.22 m) or more in depth so as to require no more than 25 feet (7.62 m) of lateral travel for associates.

      2. Associates exposed to vehicular traffic shall be provided with and shall wear, warning vests or other suitable garments marked with or made of reflectorized or high-visibility material by Facilities Management. (See your supervisor for these items when they are needed.)

      3. No associates shall be permitted underneath loads handled by lifting or digging equipment. Associates shall be required to stand away from any vehicle being loaded or unloaded to avoid being struck by any spillage or falling materials. Operators may remain in the cabs of vehicles being loaded or unloaded when vehicles are equipped, in accordance with 1926.601(b)(6), to provide adequate protection for the operator during loading and unloading operations.

      4. When mobile equipment is operated adjacent to an excavation, or when such equipment is required to approach the edge of an excavation, and the operator does not have a clear and direct view of the edge of the excavation, a warning system shall be utilized such as barricades, hand or mechanical signals, or stop logs. If possible, the grade should be away from the excavation.

      5. In addition to the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.50-1926.170 subparts D and E, to prevent exposure to harmful levels of atmospheric contaminants and to assure acceptable atmospheric conditions, the following requirements shall apply:

        1. Where oxygen deficiency (atmosphere containing less than 19.5 percent oxygen) or a hazardous atmosphere exists or could reasonably be expected to exist, such as excavations in landfill areas or excavations in areas where hazardous substances are stored nearby, the atmospheres in the excavation shall be tested before associates enter excavations greater than 4 feet (1.22 m) in depth.

        2. Adequate precautions shall be taken to prevent associate exposure to atmospheres containing less than 19.5 percent oxygen and other hazardous atmospheres. These precautions include providing proper respiratory protection or ventilation in accordance with subparts D and E of 29 CFR 126.50 - 126.170.

        3. Adequate precaution shall be taken such as providing ventilation, to prevent associate exposure to an atmosphere containing a concentration of a flammable gas in excess of 20 percent of the lower flammable limit of the gas.

        4. When controls are used that are intended to reduce the level of atmospheric contaminants to acceptable levels, testing shall be conducted as often as necessary to ensure that the atmosphere remains safe.

        5. Emergency rescue equipment, such as breathing apparatus, a safety harness and line, or a basket stretcher, shall be readily available where hazardous atmospheric conditions exist or may reasonably be expected to develop during work in an excavation. This equipment shall be attended while in use.

      6. Associates shall not work in excavations where there is accumulated water, or in excavations in which water is accumulating, unless adequate precautions have been taken to protect associates against the hazards posed by water accumulation. The precautions necessary to protect associates adequately vary with each situation, but could include special support or shield systems to protect from cave-ins, water removal to control the level of accumulating water, or use of a safety harness and lifeline.

      7. If water is controlled or prevented from accumulating by the use of water removal equipment, the water removal equipment and operations shall be monitored by a competent person to ensure proper operation.

      8. If excavation work interrupts the natural drainage of surface water (such as streams), diversion ditches, dikes, or other suitable mans shall be used to prevent surface water form entering the excavation, and to provide adequate drainage of the area adjacent to the excavation. Excavations subject to runoff from heavy rains will require an inspection by a competent person and compliance with paragraphs 8 & 9 above.

      9. Where the stability of adjoining buildings, walls, or other structures is endangered by excavation operations, support systems such as shoring, bracing, or underpinning shall be provided to ensure the stability of such structures for the protections of associated.

      10. Excavation below the level of the base or footing of any foundation, or retaining wall that could be reasonably expected to pose a hazard to associates shall not be permitted except when: a support system such as underpinning is provided to ensure the safety of associates and the stability of the structure; or the excavation is in stable rock; or a registered professional engineer has approved the determination that the structure is sufficiently removed from the excavation so as to be unaffected by the excavation activity; or a registered professional engineer has approved the determination that such excavation work will not pose a hazard to associates.

      11. Sidewalks, pavements, and appurtenant structure shall not be undermined unless a support system or another method of protection is provided to protect associates from the possible collapse of such structures.

      12. Adequate protection shall be provided to protect associates from loose rock or soil that could pose a hazard by falling or rolling from an excavation face. Such protection shall consist of scaling to remove loose material; installation of protective barricades at intervals as necessary on the face to stop and contain falling material; or other means that provide adequate protection.

      13. Associates shall be protected from excavated or other material or equipment that could pose a hazard by falling or rolling into excavations. Protection shall be provided by placing and keeping such material or equipment at least 2 feet (.61 m) from the edge of excavations, or by the use of retaining devices that are sufficient to prevent materials or equipment from falling or rolling into excavations, or by a combination of both if necessary.

      14. Daily inspections of excavations, the adjacent areas, and protective systems shall be made by a competent person for evidence of a situation that could result in possible cave-ins, indications of failure of protective systems, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions. An inspection shall be conducted by the competent person prior to the start of work and as needed throughout the shift. Inspections shall also be made after every rainstorm or other hazard increasing occurrence. These inspections are only required when associate exposure can be reasonably anticipated.

      15. Where the competent person finds evidence of a situation that could result in a possible cave-in, indications of failure of protective systems, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions, exposed associates shall be removed from the hazardous area until the necessary precautions have been taken to ensure their safety.

      16. Walkways shall be provided where associates or equipment are required to cross over excavations. Guardrails which comply with 1926.502(b) shall be provided where walkways are 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels.

      17. Adequate barrier, physical protection, shall be provided at all excavations. All wells, pits, shafts, trenches, etc shall be barricaded or covered. Upon completion of exploration and other similar operations, temporary wells, pits, shafts, trenches, etc., shall be backfilled.

      18. Each associate in an excavation shall be protected from cave-ins by an adequate protective system designed in accordance with 29 CFR 1926.652 Subpart P and Appendices A - Soil Classification, B - Sloping and Benching, C - Timber Shoring for Trenches, D - Aluminum Hydraulic Shoring for Trenches, E - Alternatives to Timber Shoring, and F - Selection of Protective Systems.

    15. Training

      1. All FM Associates who are or may be involved in excavations or trenching are to receive training. This will include all FM Associates regardless of what or how much experience the individual may have. As a minimum that training is to include all aspects of this procedure.

      2. Training records are to be retained by the FM Training Coordinator and should include: the name of associate, signature of the associate, date of training, and the name of the instructor and signature of the trainer.

    16. This procedure shall be reviewed annually.

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