Excavations are inherently dangerous places and any works taking place near or in them must be viewed as high risk.
Is an excavation a confined space?
Yes. This may appear to be a contradiction in terms as excavations on construction sites are normally open to the elements (e.g. are open to the free flow of the atmosphere).
However, as a lot of noxious/poisonous gases are heavier than air, they can settle within an excavation and create atmospheric conditions that pose risk to health, if not downright deadly to persons in the excavations.
These gases can be naturally occurring or can settle into the excavation such carbon monoxide that is present in vehicle exhausts.
In addition, hot works such as welding and breaches of service pipes can release dangerous gases into excavations which may then create dangerous conditions for persons working within the excavations.
When working in an excavation, air monitoring may be required if the atmospheric conditions require it. In which case, appropriate RPE must be worn, together with suitable Permits To Work that may include confined space protocols and evacuation procedures.
Are there any any special considerations regarding getting into and out of excavations?
Although particular conditions will apply, they are not specific to excavatsions, as the the HASWA 1974 and other related legislation require that all employers must provide a safe means of access and egress to all places of work – excavations are no exception to this responsibility and duty of care.
Therefore, all persons entering or exiting an excavation (irrespective of depth/width) must be provided with a safe means of getting in and out.
Depending upon the depth and other situational conditions, this would normally be a ladder, which must be in good condition, fit for purpose and secure with a safe “landing” platform at the top of the excavations.
In case we have not mentioned it (we have!) excavations are risky environments.