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What Is Excavation?

Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations. An excavation is defined by OSHA as any man-made trench, cut, cavity, or depression made in the surface of the Earth. Trenching and excavation work present serious hazards to all workers involved. Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are more likely than some other excavation-related incidents to result in worker fatalities.

What Is Trenching?

Trenching is a type of excavation. A trench is described as a lengthwise narrow excavation dug below the surface of the ground. Typically, a trench’s depth is greater than its width. When it comes to trenches, employers must ensure that workers enter trenches only after adequate protections are in place to address cave-in hazards. Other potential hazards associated with trenching work include falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and hazards from mobile equipment.

What Does OSHA Say About Lifting?

OSHA does not have standards that are specific to lifting a pipe; however, they have many standards on lifting heavy loads and on inspecting the rigging equipment you use.

Rigging equipment is a set of tools used to hold and distribute heavy loads in the moving process. It securely connects the load to the lifting machine to move objects from one point to another.

The following sections will go into further detail about OSHA Requirements regarding different types of rigging equipment and material.

Equipment for Lifting Pipe

The most common piece of equipment used when moving or relocating a pipe is called a sling. There are many different types of slings, each made out of a different material and requiring different inspection procedures.

There are also some more general standards that you must understand that apply to all types of slings and other lifting equipment. For example, OSHA requires that sling and lifting attachments are to never exceed the recommended weight of a safe working load as determined by the manufacturer. It is important for employees to always understand and to follow these limits.

A competent person chosen by the employer must check the sling and all fastenings and attachments each day before use for damage or flaws. If service conditions require it, additional inspections must be carried out while the sling is being used. Slings that are damaged or defective must be taken out of service right away.

It’s important to note that the following sections apply to slings used in tasks that also involve the use of other material handling tools for hoisting loads.


When it comes to chain slings that are used to lift or relocate pipes, it is important for the employees tasked with lifting and/or rigging the load to remember the following: 

In regards to inspections, as stated earlier, chain slings and related equipment should be periodically inspected for wear, cracks, or other structural defects. However, OSHA requires that a full, thorough inspection be made at least once a year. During such inspections it is important to take into account:

Wire Rope

It is crucial for the employees responsible for lifting and/or rigging the load to keep the standards in mind when using wire rope slings to lift or move a pipe. It is important to remember to never use wire rope slings to lift loads greater than the manufacturer-specified working load limits.

Employees must also remember that the ends of any strands that protrude from the wire rope material on slings must be covered or blunted. And except for haul back lines on scrapers, wire rope must not be tied in knots.

There are many limitations that apply to wire rope slings compared to other sling materials. For example, when a wire rope’s end strands are unwound, the wire is bent in the opposite direction, and the unwound strands are then woven back into the wire rope to create a loop or an eye.

Any wire rope eye splice must have at least three complete tucks. This requirement, however, shall not be used to deny the use of another type of splice or connection that can be demonstrated to be equally effective and that is not otherwise prohibited.

Each wire rope used for hoisting, lowering, or pulling loads must be one continuous piece without a knot or splice, with the exception of eye splices in wire ends. Wire rope clips or knots are not permitted to be used to create the eyes in wire rope bridles, slings, or bull wires.

Safety Tips for Lifting a Pipe

The lifting and positioning of heavy loads, such as pipes or trench boxes, is a common task assigned to earthmovers. Yet, each lift requires careful planning to ensure the safety of employees and equipment. There are five steps that you can take towards lifting a pipe safely at your worksite. They are as follows:

Make Sure Your Machine Can Handle the Pipe

Overexerting your machine’s lifting capability could make it unstable, increasing the risk of tipping or losing control of the machine or load. This could result in injury to an employee or damage to the machine, site, or payload. Additionally, it may put unexpected strains on the systems and components within the machine, which could eventually result in maintenance problems, breakdowns, and expensive repairs.

The machine should be large enough and powerful enough to maintain control and stability during the lift as well as have enough lift height and reach to place the material where it needs to be. Meaning that if you are lifting a pipe, your machine should be able to lift it as high as necessary without becoming unbalanced or tipping over. It must also be able to securely lower the load into a trench or hole as needed.

Become Familiar With Load Charts

Simply put, a load chart is a summary of what the machine can and cannot do. It gives a brief overview of the machine’s capabilities and limits for the operator to abide by.

The amount of weight that your machine model and configuration can safely lift is determined by the manufacturer. The machine’s capacity is never the same; it varies depending on the working range and position of attachments.

Before the lift, operators should be familiarized with the machine’s capabilities and trained on how to read and implement the load charts for the machine. Make sure they can identify the rated lift capacities at various positions around the machine.

Calculate the Load’s Overall Weight

You must be aware of the weight of the material that is being moved before beginning any lift. Weights for many different construction material types are readily available from the supplier, including concrete pipes. Make sure to speak with the correct individual onsite who can give you this information.

But figuring out a load’s weight is just the beginning. The total load weight must also account for the machine configuration and any extraneous parts that might add weight to the machine’s lifting end, like buckets, thumbs, and couplers. The total weight which the unit can lift at the specified reach or angle must be reduced by the weight of these items.

Proceed with caution if it is impossible to determine the total weight of a load. If there is any doubt about the machine’s capacity to handle the load, make sure the load is picked up close to the machine, kept close to the ground, and slowly extended and swung into place.

Worksite and Machine Check

Check the area for potential hazards or obstacles (such as overhead utilities) before starting the lift. Make sure the machine is placed on a stable, level, and firm surface. On soft, uneven, or shaky ground, avoid lifting. If you need a more stable work platform, use mats, wooden platforms, or steel plates.

The operator should be familiar with the features of that specific machine and make sure the controls are configured according to the preferred control pattern . The machine should also undergo a safety inspection to make sure it is in good shape and is working correctly.

If the machine has a blade, it should be set down on the ground for more stability. Ensure the appropriate counterweights are in position. When using a backhoe loader, stabilizers should be lowered so that the tires are raised just a little bit off the ground. For added stability, the loader bucket must be set down.

Make sure the rigging equipment is suitable for the application and rated to carry the load by inspecting it. Make sure it is securely fastened to the machine and load, and check it for any indications of wear or damage before each use.

Finally, remove any extra personnel from the area. The only people in the immediate vicinity should be the spotters, who should be positioned far from the lift area but in view of the equipment operator at all times.

Stay Low and Slow

Keep in mind that an excavator or backhoe-loader will have its highest lifting capacity closer to the machine. Lift the load so that it is directly over the machine’s side or end. As you move the load, keep it as close as you can to the machine and the ground. Then, extend the load out to the desired location. To ensure a safe and controlled operation, move slowly.

As the load is being lowered, the operator should be situated so that they can maintain visibility into the trench or hole. Position the machine so that the lowering will be done over the end of the machine and not over the side.

Maintain a straight lift point over the load. In the event that the line is twisted and begins to rotate, the load may become unbalanced. To avoid a lot of load swing, use short slings. Taglines can aid in load control and stop swinging or swaying while being lifted.

Stop the lift and lower the load to the ground if there are any indications of instability or loss of control of the machine or the load.

The Importance of Employee Safety & Health

Many workplaces that depend on the hard work of both employees and management place a high priority on keeping the workplace safe and healthy. The safety culture in the workplace will flourish when safety procedures and policies are applied effectively and when everyone is working together to reduce the risk.

Employee retention and safety are strongly connected. The burden of worrying about safety and health is reduced for the employees due to the safety measures put in place and the training offered. Additionally, if your workplace prioritizes safety, you will lose fewer workers over time as a result of illnesses or injuries. Consider our own excavator certification safety training course to ensure your excavators are trained properly and to OSHA’s current standards.