Safety should be every individual’s main priority on any construction or jobsite.

Without the proper equipment, processes, and policies workers may be at risk of serious injury, or worse. While every part of a jobsite can be dangerous, the most hazardous locations on a site are often below ground level.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 54 workers are killed, and countless others are injured in trench cave-ins or collapses each year. Workers in and around trenches and pits are injured in other ways as well, including falls and falling debris, poor air quality and more. Trenches have become so dangerous that OSHA has made improving trench safety the Agency’s Priority Goal.

The most important safety step you can take to prevent cave-ins and collapses is to install a trench box.

What are trench boxes?

Trench boxes are used to protect workers while performing tasks within an excavation area. Also known as trench shields or sewer boxes, trench boxes are steel or aluminum structures that are inserted into a trench or other excavation to secure the sidewalls from cave-in or erosion. The sidewalls of a trench box are held apart by spreaders, which can be customized to match the width of the excavation.

There are other types of Trench Boxes that are made of aluminum or a combination of aluminum and steel. Aluminum shields are generally used in shallower excavation to do point repairs or service connections. Aluminum shields are available in modular panel construction, which allows the user to configure the shield in either 2 sided, 3 sided, or 4 sided. The customer can also pick panels from a variety of lengths up to 12′ and width to 12′. Most modular panels are 2′ tall and can be stacked to get the required height needed.

The other type of aluminum sheet is a 3″ wall foam filled aluminum panel with a steel frame around it to add durability for working in more severe conditions. This type of shield, known as a SFA shield, comes in 4′ 6′ 8′ heights and 4′-16′ in lengths and can be used when smaller excavators or backhoes are used.

Are trench boxes required for every excavation?

In March of 1990, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) added new rules and guidelines for the Subpart P Excavation Standard. The revisions were made to clarify the current standard to make them easier to understand. This revision was based on the fact that excavation is one of the most dangerous types of construction with more workers killed or seriously injured than most other phases of construction work.

In general, all trenches greater than 5′ require a protective system, and in some cases, the engineer may require the depth to only be 4′. OSHA also requires a Competent Person trained in the Subpart P Excavation standard to determine the protective system needed for the job.

Additionally, all trench boxes must be designed and manufactured according to the design of a Registered Professional Engineer in the structural field. Manufacturer Tabulated Data, with a signed P.E. stamp, is required during installation and must be available at the request of an OSHA compliance officer.

Certified trench boxes can increase productivity by reducing the amount of material excavated for the work area. Along with reducing select material costs and the remediation footprint in the excavation area.

U.S. Shoring & Equipment Co. Can Help You Source the Right Trench Box for Your Job

U.S. Shoring & Equipment Co. is committed to helping you protect every worker on your jobsite. We maintain distributor relationships with many of the industry’s leading vendors to ensure the swift and accurate sourcing of trench boxes and shield systems.

To fit your specific trench box needs, we can help you identify and purchase or rent the ideal solution to fit your requirements. Contact us to speak to a trench box expert and learn more.

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