Collisions with construction equipment and other vehicles, pedestrians falling into open excavation work, driving into open excavation work, driving into work areas and losing control of a vehicle because of minor road repairs and soft shoulders are the major causes of accidents in highway construction or maintenance. You can minimize the likelihood of such accidents by using barricades and other warning devices.
In some instances, signs will be sufficient deterrents. Signs should conform in shape, size and color to recommended specifications. Use them freely to designate approaches to the site. Use secondary approach warnings, such as one-lane traffic and speed limit signs, where appropriate.
Other instances call for the use of barricades. An open trench can be a hazard not only to the workers on the site, but also to the public. The OSHA standard states, “Each employee at the edge of an excavation six feet (1.8 m) or more in depth shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, fences, or barricades when the excavations are not readily seen because of plant growth or other visual barriers.”
There are two types of barricades – the horse type and the fence type. Use the fence barricade around heavy equipment and as a roadblock. Use the horse type for all other purposes. Barricades should be properly striped for visibility – six inches wide and inclined at an angel of 45 degrees from the horizontal.
Below are some barricade basics to help ensure a safe excavation site:
- Install warning systems prior to excavation.
- Install barricades, guardrails or fences around excavations adjacent to walkways, roads, paths or other traffic areas.
- Install standard guardrails on walkways or bridges used by the general public to cross excavations.
- Install barricades or other means of protection from underground utilities left in place during excavation.
- Install a barricade or fence on any excavation left unattended to protect against accidental pedestrian entry.
- You can use posts and warning tape as a barricade if the excavation is in a remote location where visitation by residents is unlikely.
- Use a physical barrier such as a fence to isolate an excavation in a highly traveled area.
- Install barricades around the site to help control vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
- Install a warning system such as a barricade, hand or mechanical signal or stop logs when operating mobile equipment adjacent to the edge of an excavation.
These are just a few precautions you can take to protect workers and the public around excavations. Each situation will be different; therefore, a competent person must assess the hazards associated with the specific excavation to determine the most appropriate plan of action.