When it comes to construction projects, employee safety is always the number one priority. One of the most dangerous situations on any construction site is when workers are working in a trench, which can sometimes be several feet deep and in some cases many miles long. The biggest danger in these jobs is the walls caving in, trapping the workers under dirt and other materials. To make sure this doesn’t happen, companies today use a variety of equipment designed to make most any job safer.
What is Trench Shoring?
While some people believe the terms shoring and shielding are one and the same, they are in fact very different. Shoring is the process of bracing walls to prevent collapse, while trench shielding is done only to protect workers in the event of a collapse. Most experts agree shoring is a much safer approach, since its goal is to protect the workers by making sure the walls do not collapse.
What Equipment is Used in Trench Shoring?
Depending upon the type of trench and its size, many different types of equipment can be used. Three of the most popular methods involve hydraulic shoring, soldier boarding and beam and plate. Hydraulic shoring uses a combination of hydraulic pistons and either steel plates or heavy plywood to shore up the trench. The plates or plywood are put into place, then the pistons are positioned and activated until they are pressing against the walls, creating a safe and secure work environment. The beam and plate method involves using steel beams that are driven into the ground, which is followed by inserting steel plates amongst them to shore up the trench walls. On some jobs, wooden planks are used in the place of steel plates.
While most people assume trenches are simply done to install pipes or other materials below ground, there are many other types of trenches dug to install such things as manholes. For these trenches, it’s just as important to ensure they are shored up in a safe fashion. Some of the latest innovations in making these trenches safer involves using Flex Shield material to take advantage of the pressure put on trench walls by the surrounding ground. Rather than making trench walls that are straight, Flex Shield walls are angled slightly when first put into the ground. However, they then use the pressure exerted on them by the surrounding ground to bow out and become straight, thus creating a very tight fit that will almost never waver and collapse. These are used quite often in manhole construction, when spaces can be tight and narrow and the threat of collapse very high.
As construction projects become more and more complex in the years ahead, safety will continue to be a primary concern for companies and those on the job. Using technology such as Flex Shield along with equipment and methods developed by civil and mechanical engineers will ensure more workers can be safe and sound when working in the trenches.
About the Author
David Crandall, Vice President of ICON Equipment, involved in all aspects of company operations from sales, operations, financial and legal functions.