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Construction Site Health and Safety - Excavations

When it comes to health and safety on a construction site, one type of activity which has the potential to cause serious injuries or death is excavations. The deep holes and unstable ground contribute to a variety of possible dangers and risks. As with most health and safety issues, a combination of common sense and knowledge gained on health and safety courses can reduce the risk of accidents occurring.

The most obvious hazard associated with excavations is the hole or cavity created by the works. On a construction site this is likely to be deep, and creates the risk of a person or vehicle falling down into it. This falling from height can lead to injuries such as broken bones, head injuries and possible death. If a vehicle falls into the hole it can also cause injuries or death, and even if the driver and occupants escape unhurt, there is still likely to be damage to the vehicle and a major headache in trying to extract it out of there. A person or vehicle can fall down into the hole at any time, but the chances are increased dramatically if there is poor visibility, or if the edge is not clearly identified.

Excavation work can make the ground unstable inside the hole and in the surrounding area. Those working down there can be buried and trapped by soil if a wall gives way, whilst those up top near the edge could fall in if the ground slips. Even when the excavations are complete and the area filled in, there is still a danger from the unstable ground. It is likely to be softer than the surrounding undisturbed soil, and could still give way, or cause a vehicle to sink or topple over.

A further risk comes from the digging itself, as people or equipment could come into contact with buried surfaces such as electrical cables which can produce an electric shock, or water/sewerage pipes which can lead to flooding in the hole if ruptured, which could cause workers to drown if they cannot escape in time.

Depending upon the scale of the works, performing excavations is likely to require a permit to work system to be put into place due to the high-risk nature of the activity. For more information on permit to work training, or accredited construction site safety courses such as the SMSTS, SSSTS and NEBOSH Construction Certificate, please use the tabs at the top of the page to view the course outlines. Alternatively, please click on the "Contact Us" button towards the bottom of the page to contact us online, or call 0844 800 3295.

Selected Courses

Please see below for a selection of health and safety courses and qualifications which you may be interested in:

NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is the flagship NEBOSH qualification, and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

The NEBOSH National Diploma provides the core health and safety knowledge (transferable across industry, commerce and the public sector) which, combined with understanding and appropriate application, underpins the competent performance of an occupational health and safety practitioner.

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NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is one of the most popular and widely-held health and safety qualifications in the UK. It is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who require an understanding of general health and safety issues.

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers the main legal requirements for health and safety in the UK, along with the identification and control of workplace hazards, and the practical application of this knowledge. The general content of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus means it is suitable and relevant for those working in virtually any industry, and is often used as a solid foundation for those going on to further study and specialising in a particular area such as construction site health and safety or fire safety.

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IOSH Managing Safely Course

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed for managers and supervisors of organisations in virtually all industry sectors, in order to give them all they need to know to effectively manage health and safety in the workplace.

Recently updated, the new high impact programme covers key health and safety issues, and includes references to international case studies.

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CITB Site Management SMSTS Course

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is one of the most popular health and safety training courses, and is intended for construction site managers, project managers and senior supervisors, as well as proprietors of smaller companies.

Client-based personnel would also benefit from attending the SMSTS course.

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CITB Health and Safety Awareness Course

This course is for those who have entered, or are about to enter, the construction and civil engineering industry as a member of the workforce to help them understand the potential hazards that they face at work on site. It aims to provide a practical summary of health and safety, welfare and environmental health and safety issues.

The course also allows delegates to identify their individual responsibilities for looking after themselves and others, what the employer's duties are and what should be done if they think anyone's health and safety is being put at risk.

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