The Basics of Utility Installation and Trenching: What You Need to Know

May 5, 2022 4:58 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

What Is Trenching?Trenching is a vital part of every construction project. It encompasses digging and removing the dirt from a channel into the ground for a variety of projects. Trenching is used for civil engineering projects, such as telephone wires and water pipe installation. 

As construction work continues, the installation of utilities is part of the process. Construction projects, be it schools, commercial sites, residential lots or larger infrastructure work, must consider utility installation to some degree. Proper utility infrastructure installation has an impact on the safety and functioning of the building. Before the utility installation, there is often a need for trenching and utility excavation to ensure the safety of the lines. 

Utility Excavation 

The utility excavation process goes past simple channel digging. It is complex and needs utmost precision while coordinating many factors. The process needs the coordination of exact locations and the elevation from the surfaces in observance of government codes and regulations. During utility excavation, workers must avoid conflicting with other utilities.

In the construction industry, excavating and trenching are different. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the length and depth of the dug channel determine whether it is an excavation or a trench. 

Most construction work requires proper trenches or excavation for the safe installation of both dry and wet utility lines.

According to the US Department of Labor, approximately 800 construction employees die on the job each year, and the main contributor is trenching tasks. One of the fundamental components of the trenching planning process is understanding the soil type of the construction site. The main soil types and rock deposits are categorized as: 

  • Type A Soil: This includes clay, clay loam, sandy clay and silty clay. 
  • Type B Soil: This typically includes silt, some silty clay loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam and angular gravel. 
  • Type C Soil: This includes granular soils such as sand, gravel and loamy sand. 
  • Stable rock

What Is the Importance of Soil Type? 

Other than building considerations, the major reason soil type is crucial is safety. Understanding the soil type on the construction site allows for proper pre-planning. One cubic meter of soil weighs more than a car. Thus, if a trench caves in, it can have terrible consequences for anybody working nearby. 

Wet and Dry Utilities

Another consideration during utility installation is if it is a wet or a dry utility; this dictates the trenching essential for the project. 

Wet utilities include:

  • Water mainline
  • Sewer lines
  • Water system and storm drain 

Dry utilities include:

  • Telephone lines
  • Gas lines
  • Communication lines
  • Natural gas
  • Fiber optics

Like other construction activities, trenching can be risky, and sometimes fatal. That is why it is vital to adhere to appropriate trenching practices to enhance safety.

Essential Trenching Safety Practices

The following are some necessary safe practices to observe while trenching: 

  • Use alternative trenching methods.
  • Install protective systems.
  • Have appropriate safety signs.
  • Carry out atmospheric testing.
  • Routinely inspect trenches.
  • Beware of falling loads.
  • Trace utility lines before digging.
  • Install safe access points.
  • Engage a competent person.
  • Observe OSHA Trenching and Excavation Safety guidelines.

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