Toolbox Talks

Presented by Mark Solano, CHST. and the Laborers Training School

April 22, 2024

10 most important tips when working in a trench.

Working in a trench can be hazardous, so it's crucial to prioritize safety above all else. Here are ten important tips to keep in mind when working in a trench:

1. Follow OSHA guidelines: Ensure that you're familiar with and adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines and regulations for trenching and excavation work.

2. Inspect the trench daily: Before starting work each day, inspect the trench for any signs of instability, such as cracks, bulges, or water accumulation. Address any issues promptly.

3. Shoring, sloping, or shielding: Depending on the soil type and depth of the trench, use appropriate protective measures like shoring, sloping, or shielding to prevent collapse. Follow engineering specifications for the trench support system.

4. Keep the trench clear: Remove any debris, equipment, or materials from the trench that could pose a tripping hazard or impede emergency rescue efforts.

5. Test for hazardous gases: Before entering a trench, test the atmosphere for hazardous gases like methane, carbon monoxide, or hydrogen sulfide. Use gas detectors and follow confined space entry procedures if necessary.

6. Provide adequate ventilation: Ensure that there's proper ventilation in the trench to prevent the buildup of harmful gases or lack of oxygen. Use fans or blowers if needed.

7. Use proper personal protective equipment (PPE): Wear appropriate PPE such as hard hats, high-visibility clothing, steel-toed boots, and protective gloves to reduce the risk of injury.

8. Implement a trench rescue plan: Have a detailed trench rescue plan in place and ensure that all workers are trained on how to respond in case of an emergency. This includes knowing how to use rescue equipment like ladders or harnesses.

9. Stay out of unsupported areas: Never enter an unsupported trench or work beneath unsupported loads. Always stay clear of heavy equipment operating near the trench edges.

10. Continuous monitoring: Throughout the duration of work in the trench, continuously monitor conditions for any changes that could indicate an increased risk of collapse or other hazards. Stay vigilant and ready to take immediate action if necessary.

Remember, trench work can be dangerous, so it's crucial to prioritize safety at all times and never take shortcuts when it comes to protecting yourself and your colleagues.


Mark Solano, CHST.

Laborers Training School Safety Officer

I entered the construction industry in the summer of 1979, faced with a choice from my father, who was president of Local 652 at the time: go to college or join the Laborers. I chose the Laborers.  

I attended the Laborers Training School in Anza during the summer of 1980. Throughout my career, I worked with several respected companies, including Granite, Silverado, and Full Traffic Maintenance. 

My passion for safety ignited during my time at Granite and I later assumed the role of Safety Manager at Griffith Company. This journey led me to serve on the subcommittee for Laborers Local 652 in Santa Ana in a management capacity.  

It was there that I first learned of the position of Safety Officer at the Laborers Training School. Recognizing it as my calling, I embraced the opportunity to be part of a program that imparts knowledge ,experience, and safety values to young apprentices. It's both an honor and privilege to serve Laborer Local unions and contractors across Southern California.

"The path of safety and service is a rewarding one, built on sharing knowledge, experiences, and shaping a safer tomorrow."