What is a trench exactly? Do people still work in trenches? Well, according to OSHA, a trench is defined as a narrow, underground excavation that is deeper than it is wide and is not more than 15ft wide.
When most people think about a large trench, the first thing that might come to mind is a movie or a television show that has to do with World War I and the terrible trench warfare that took place a hundred years ago. In Europe during that time, the trenches were massive on both sides and spanned large amounts of ground. Many were structurally sound and some were not. In the years since the Great War, trenches have, thankfully, been used for other things more beneficial to humankind.
Today, in the United States, trenches are used all of the time during construction and excavation projects. When it comes to trenches and their effectiveness, the main consideration regarding the design and construction of a trench is the safety and security of the workers in the trench. Keeping workers safe while performing their duties is an essential part of a trench shoring box. The trench shoring box is one of the types of shoring for excavation tools that are meant to keep the trench’s walls from caving in.
Unless an excavation is made entirely in stable rock, any trenches that are five feet deep or greater require a trench shoring box or protective system. If a trench is 20ft deep or more, the protective system must be designed by a registered professional engineer or the design must be based on tabulated data prepared by and signed off on by a registered professional engineer. Most of these designs feature a trench shoring box that holds the trench together and in place.
Another safety requirement that is in place to keep everyone safe in a trench is safe access and egress to all excavations. This safe access and egress include ladders, steps or ramps, and other means of exiting a trench that is four feet deep or deeper. In this provision for safety, it includes the insistence that these devices must be within 25ft of all of the workers down in the trench.