Toolbox Talks

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

February 5, 2024

Inspecting a Trench or Excavation

Inspecting a trench or excavation is crucial for ensuring the safety of workers and preventing potential hazards. The inspection process involves evaluating various components to identify and address any potential risks. Here are the key components of inspecting a trench or excavation:

1. Protective Systems:

• Check if protective systems are in place, such as shoring, sloping, or trench boxes, to prevent cave-ins. Ensure they are installed according to the specifications of the competent person.

2. Access and Egress:

• Verify that there are safe entry and exit points for workers. This includes ladders, stairways, ramps, or other means of egress positioned within 25 feet of workers in the trench.

3. Utilities:

• Identify and locate underground utilities (water, gas, electric, etc.) before digging to prevent accidental damage. Confirm that the necessary utility companies have marked the locations.

4. Weather Conditions:

• Consider the impact of weather conditions on the trench. Heavy rain can increase the risk of collapse, and precautions may need to be taken to prevent water accumulation within the trench.

5. Soil Type:

• Assess the soil type to determine its stability. Different soil types require specific protective measures. Classify the soil according to OSHA’s soil classification system (Type A, B, or C) to determine the appropriate protective measures.

6. Adjacent Structures:

• Evaluate the proximity of nearby structures and ensure they are stable. Excavations close to buildings or other structures may require additional support to prevent soil movement and structural damage.

7. Spoil Piles:

• Check the location and stability of spoil piles (excavated material) to prevent them from collapsing back into the trench. Keep spoil piles at a safe distance from the edge of the trench.

8. Hazardous Atmospheres:

• Test for hazardous atmospheres, such as low oxygen levels or the presence of toxic gases. Ensure proper ventilation and respiratory protection measures are in place if necessary.

9. Inspection Records:

• Review any previous inspection records and reports. Ensure that corrective actions have been taken for any identified issues.

10. Emergency Response:

• Verify that a competent person is present on-site during trenching activities and that there is a clear plan for responding to emergencies, including rescue procedures.

11. Training:

• Confirm that workers involved in trenching activities are adequately trained and aware of the potential hazards associated with trench work.


• Continuously monitor the trench during work to identify and address any changes in conditions that may pose a risk.

Remember that a competent person, as defined by OSHA, should conduct the trench inspection. Regular inspections should be carried out, especially after any changes in conditions or weather. Compliance with local regulations and guidelines is essential to ensure the safety of workers in trenching and excavation activities.


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."