Risk Management Is the Key to Safe Trenching

Date posted: October 6, 2017

Trenching machines have been used in industry and construction for many years now, ushering in major improvements in productivity and safety. In the past, it required a small army of labourers to dig a trench manually, but now the combination of these powerful machines and skilled operators move tonnes of material in very little time. Modern trenching machines accurately cut trenches to specification and track automatically to ensure a straight cut.

Trenching Machines Improve Safety Performance

As far as safety is concerned, the risk of workers being buried in a collapse is minimised, as the machine is doing all the work. For the comfort of the operators, the cabins are pressurised and climate controlled, reducing the likelihood of environmental hazards such as noise-induced hearing loss, heat stress and dehydration.

Safety Hazards Must Still be Managed

There is no room for complacency, however, as these are large, powerful machines capable of cutting through all types of terrain. There are various types with different capabilities, including slicing through solid rock. This combination of varied site locations and machine performance creates its own safety hazards that must be managed to prevent lost productivity, property damage and injury.
At Reay Services Group, we contract to clients in the mining and resource industry to build water, sewer and dry utility trenches, oil and gas field pipelines, infrastructure foundations and other earth moving and excavation work. Our trenching machines are mine site compliant, quality assured and maintained to the standards required by the Australian mining industry.

Everything Starts with a Risk Assessment

All our trenching work starts with a risk assessment. Because every site is unique, we cannot assume that the hazards at a new location will be the same as the one we just left. Our safety specialists, in consultation with our operators, identify those hazards.

Some Typical Hazards

Typical trenching hazards include the fall or dislodgement of earth or rock, inappropriate placement of excavated material, the affect the excavation may have on plant, structures or personnel close by, and the possible inrush of water or other liquid material. It could also include locating any existing services in respect of powerlines, gas, sewerage and telecommunications but this is far less of an issue when we work in remote locations than in populated areas.

Risk Assessment Offers Flexibility

Hazards we identify are then assessed for the risk they present, and eliminated or minimised. This gives us the flexibility to manage the risks in the most effective way to suit the circumstance. There is no “one size fits all” in safety management, but as a safety accredited supplier, our clients have confidence in our ability to get their trenching job completed as efficiently and safely as possible.