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Executing Safe excavation Operations on site
Almost three years ago, I was told of an incident that happened here in Nigeria at my current work location, Nigerdock PLC Snake Island. My colleague who was telling me of the story said, there was an excavation operation going on, and as usual they could not finish that day, so they closed for the day and everybody went home to have a good night rest. During the night it rained heavily and everyone slept well.The next morning, everybody trooped in for the day’s work, from the changing room, an operative went straight to the excavation site without obtaining instruction from his supervisor.
He got there and together with other operatives like him, they commenced work. Unknown to them, the rain that poured the previous day had really weakened the sides and edges of the excavation. Not long after, while they were still working inside the trench, the walls of the trench caved in.Most of the operatives were lucky and hurriedly climbed out of the trench unhurt, but there was this certain operative who was not as lucky as the others, the collapse wall of the trench had trapped from his waste downwards and he couldn’t pull himself out. He shouted for help and help was which was not forth coming, his colleagues were afraid to go back into the trench because they were afraid that the remaining walls of the excavation could collapse.
Emergency alarm was raised, some people gathered the confidence to go in and rescue the helpless operative, he was brought out and rushed to the clinic, after serious medical treatment and tests, it was discovered by the medical team that his left legs has been seriously damaged. The medical team tried all they could do and had to immediately refer him to a specialist hospital for further and special medical attention.
The operative in question survived but I heard he would not be able to use his legs perfectly for ever again.
Safety steps to put in place for an Excavation work
Technology has made things easier for us; we now have underground service scanners with high accuracy detection using ultrasonic methods, some scanners even have the ability to tell you which kind of underground service is present below and at the particular depth from the top of the surface at which they are located. These equipment are not that expensive and should be owned by anybody that wants to perform an excavation operation.
Some of the underground service you could come across includes
Underground Electrical services. This is a major hazard associated with excavation works, this is so because while excavating, if electrical cables are stricken, it will not only cause damage to the service, it could also lead to fatality. Either it’s a life electrical cable or it is dead one, the risk associated with underground electrical service is very high and we need to ensure that our proposed excavation site is adequately scanned for underground services
Underground Mechanical Services. Underground services such as waste water piping, solid waste piping, clean water piping etc. are all categorized as mechanical services, most of the time these mechanical services are buried under the ground and are not visible from the surface.
Although underground mechanical services may not have the risk of fatality directly attached to it, it could still cause major health and safety issues like environmental spillages, flooding, biological hazards etc. we must make sure that we scan our proposed excavation site before the digging of trenches can commence.
Underground Gas services. Underground gas services are as dangerous as underground electrical services if not more, in some cities and area; they have underground channels of gas service from a distribution point to usage point. As we all know these gases can be volatile, flammable, toxic and deadly. If gas pipes are mistakenly punctured during excavation works, it could be a major disaster. It is on this note that it is important that we perform underground service scan test before commencing any excavation work.
Finally, ensure you take additional safety precautions and steps if necessary to ensure the operation is executed safely.
Remember, no work is completed until it has been safely completed.