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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

CFAES Trenching and Excavation Safety

The Trenching and Excavation Safety Program establishes requirements for safe trenching, excavating and shoring activities at The Ohio State University. The intent is to ensure any activity involving trenching and excavating is conducted in a manner to minimize risk to employees, property, students, visitors and contractors. The Ohio State University must comply with the requirements of the Excavations, Trenching and Shoring standards (OSHA 29CFR 1926.650, 651 and 652)

An excavation is defined as any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in an earth surface, formed by earth removal. This does not include agricultural field preparation that disturbs the soil at the surface or subsoil tillage at a depth of 18” or less. Common excavations involving CFAES faculty, staff or students may include:

Agricultural excavations – field tile work, soil judging pits, waterway / erosion control, land clearing, and earthen storage structures.

Construction excavations – footers / foundations, driveways construction, and underground utility excavations.

Environmental & Natural Resource Excavations - research based or geological excavations, stream bank restoration, and environmental engineering controls.

Department Chairs, Supervisors or instructors of areas where trenching and excavating is conducted are responsible for the implementation of the Trenching and Excavation Safety Program in their work area. The supervisor or instructor has ultimate responsibility for the safety of the employees, students and general public affected by the excavation. This includes evaluation of the work to be performed, determination of the means of protection that will be used and adherence to the provisions of the safety program as appropriate. The supervisor or instructor must ensure daily, or more often as required, that site conditions are safe for employees to work in excavations. The supervisor or a member of the work group must be a “competent person” as defined by OSHA.

Competent Person is one who is capable to identify existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions that may affect employees and the general public, and who has authority to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.  The Competent Person(s):

  • Must be trained in and knowledgeable of excavation and trenching standard, and other programs that may apply (Hazard Communication, Confined Space, Respiratory Protection)
  • Must be capable of recognizing hazardous conditions and must have authority to stop work and ensure that hazards are corrected
  • Performs and documents the ‘Daily Excavation Inspection’, and knows when inspections should be performed
  • Must assure that the location of underground installations or utilities have been properly located.
  • Must identify and ensure the use of adequate protective systems, work methods and personal protective equipment (PPE) on the excavation site.

OSU Trenching & Excavation Safety Program
CFAES Excavation Safety Checklist
CFAES Excavation Operator Safety Guidelines
CFAES Severe Weather Guidelines for Field Research
Ohio BWC - Safety Manual for Excavations
OSHA Trenching & Excavation Safety
Ohio Utilities Protection Service - 811
Ohio Land Improvement Contractor Association (OLICA)
New York State Dept of Transprotation - Equipment Operator Evaluation Forms


If you have any questions regarding trenching and excavations, please contact Kent McGuire at or 292-0588. You may also contact the OSU Environmental Health and Safety Office online at or by phone at (614) 292-1284.


Reviewed / Updated: 10/29/20 K. McGuire