Most people have one of two priorities while looking at the type of shoring or shielding equipment they wish to buy/rent for their workers. These two priorities are simple, typically the concern is for money and safety, though sometimes these two priorities do not go hand in hand. It is important to consider how much equipment is going to cost because you do not want to spend more on the equipment than you are making on the job. Protecting a person’s life, however, is an even bigger consideration that should be looked at when looking at the equipment you are purchasing.
OSHA regulations required in the early 90’s for a competent person to check out and approve a worksite before workers entered it. This changed how excavation and trench sites work was conducted by workers. It also drove the reality surrounding the dangers of working in a trench home and made contractors realize that safety was something they should work towards. By 2003, however, the commitment to ensuring the safety of workers as they worked the trenches had drastically dropped. Eighty-six percent of excavation facilities in the year 2003 took place while the designated competent person was absent from the jobsite, as revealed by a study conducted by OSHA. In 2008, OSHA determined that at least one fourth, if not more, of trench fatalities were due to contractors failing to utilize shield and/or shoring systems or failure during the installation of these systems. It is believed that the drastic change could be due to the recent economic problems. Many believe that trench safety is once again on the rise as workers and contractors once again realize the dangers associated with this type of work.
If you are a contractor looking to select one of the numerous different types and sizes available for shoring and shield protective systems, how do you do it? There are a number of considerations that could make the choice easier. The first thing you should look at is the cost. Can you afford it? You shouldn’t just look at the upfront cost of equipment, but the overall cost that could result from the use. Sloping is known as one of the least expensive methods. It is important, however, to realize that removing the soil, loading it on a truck, hauling it off, and then bringing it back to the site can add up. If you’re considering sloping as the method simply because it’s the cheapest you have found, have you looked at how much the total cost of this method will be? Typically, the pricing from lowest to highest is plywood/hydraulic supports, trench boxes/shields, rail systems, then sheet piling. A should also compare renting vs. buying when considering the price. It is hard for a contractor to put in the upfront cost of owning equipment when they can invest in the manpower it takes to complete the job instead, and there are benefits to renting equipment. First of all, the type of equipment you buy may not be efficient for every type of job, so it can be beneficial to rent the equipment. Renting will also allow contractors to shift equipment as the work changes.
The next thing you should look at is how well does each piece of equipment fit the job you are conducting? Shielding and shoring equipment should be job-specific. You can look at the stability of the soil, how deep the excavation site is, the ground pressure, adjacent structures, and groundwater. If the site is more than twenty foot deep, however, OSHA requires that professional engineer be employed to determine the right system for the job.
Next look at how comfortable your crew is with each piece of equipment. It is important to consider the experience and capability of your workers. Look at what type of equipment they are the most comfortable using and know the most about. You should also look at the size of your crew as well, you want to ensure that the size you buy isn’t too big or too small for your workers. The trenching system should be fully functional during each workday. The competent person is responsible for recognizing if the integrity of a shield or brace is compromised. Protective systems help contractors complete projects on time by preventing cave-ins and injuries. OSHA rates the fatality rate of excavation work 112 percent more likely than fatalities during regular construction.
The final consideration you should look at is the company providing you with the equipment. Whether it be trench box rental, or purchasing a complete shoring system, you should look at how much care and concern the company puts into ensuring safety. Safety is a major concern, and the company that provides you with the equipment can tell you a lot about how well the equipment itself is going to work.