The 4 P’s of Excavation and Drilling Job Site Safety

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The 4 P’s of Excavation and Drilling Job Site Safety

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The right preparation of people, equipment and environmental conditions before even stepping onto a job site can make a world of difference in helping alleviate safety concerns.

Maintaining the safety of your next excavation or drilling job can be aided by the “Four P’s” of job site safety.


Before you begin to plan for your next job, it’s critical to know you have the right people in place to get the job done safely. Workers should not only be competent in essential job functions like operating machinery, but also have the ability to recognize when they’re operating within reasonable safety parameters.

“A competent person is an individual, designated by the employer, who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous or dangerous to workers, and who is authorized to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them,” according to a report from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


Even if you’re working with team members with the right competencies and experience to give you the confidence that they can get a job done safely, it’s important to make sure you’re not overlooking any job-specific safety concerns. That applies to both operational safety and verifying the job site itself is safe for both workers and passers-by, accounting for things like nearby vehicle traffic and any physical structures that could create a safety issue during operation. 

“No matter how many horizontal directional drilling, trenching, shoring and backfilling jobs an employer has done in the past, approach each new job with care and preparation. Many on-the-job incidents result from inadequate initial planning. Waiting until after the work starts to correct mistakes in shoring or sloping slows down the operation, adds to the cost of the project, and makes a cave-in or other excavation failure more likely,” according to an OSHA report. “Before preparing a bid, employers should know as much as possible about the job site and the materials they will need to have on hand to perform the work safely and in compliance with OSHA standards. A safety checklist may prove helpful when employers are considering new projects.” 


On an HDD job site, protection means a lot of things, from the personal protective equipment each worker should wear to the way a excavation is structured. A safe job site provides the necessary visual precautions like cones and signage to alert those around that there are workers present, as do high-visibility clothing and PPE like hard hats, safety goggles, safety shoes and hearing protection for those workers so they’re both protected and visible. It’s also important to train workers on things like machinery safety clearances so they can operate safely. 

“Provide a warning system (such as barricades, hand or mechanical signals, or stop logs) when mobile equipment is operated adjacent to an excavation, or when such equipment must approach the edge of an excavation and the operator does not have a clear and direct view of the edge. Institute and enforce work rules prohibiting workers from standing or working under loads being handled by lifting or digging equipment,” according to an OSHA report. “Require workers to stand away from vehicles being loaded or unloaded to protect them from being struck by any spillage or falling materials.”


Even if you or your workers have done a specific type of excavation job countless times before, every job is different. Account for environmental conditions when planning for each job so things like soil conditions or additional equipment requirements don’t impede progress, endanger worker safety or disrupt job progress. Every member of an excavation team should know both the conditions in which they’re working as well as the precautions they need to take to stay safe.

“When employers share the details of their safety and health programs with workers, they should emphasize the critical role workers play in keeping the job site safe,” according to a report from OSHA. “Employers also need to emphasize specific practices that will help reduce the risk of on-the-job injuries at excavation sites.”


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