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CROSS Safety Report

Potentially dangerous excavation

Report ID: 368 Published: 1 July 2014 Region: CROSS-UK

This report is over 2 years old

Please be aware that it might contain information that is no longer up to date. We keep all reports available for historic reference and as learning aids.


A reporter has submitted this photograph of a potentially dangerous excavation.

Key Learning Outcomes

For the construction team:

  • It is good practice to carry out a risk assessment and method statement (RAMS) for all construction activities. This can ensure the sequencing of work activities such as trench excavation are considered and planned.

  • Consider appointing a competent Temporary Works Coordinator (TWC) on site who should be able to identify and address the risk of a potential trench collapse

  • Regular toolbox talks are a good way of engaging with work crews and highlighting any risks associated with work activities

For all built environment professionals:

  • It is desirable to create a safety aware culture whereby everyone on construction sites or other hazardous environments is looking out for risks and looking out for each other

Full Report

Find out more about the Full Report

The Full Report below has been submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s experience. The text has been edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity and confidentiality by removing any identifiable details. If you would like to know more about our secure reporting process or submit a report yourself, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.


A reporter has submitted this photograph (Figure 1) of a potentially dangerous excavation. The reporter’s concern was that when the picture was taken, there appeared to be no road plates under the digger with little bearing either side of the excavation.

An operative also appeared to be working under the machine. There also appeared to be no trench shoring and it looked rather deep with the digger working near exposed pipes.

The reporter did not believe that these works were being carried out safely and due to the public nature of the works, believed this could affect not just the workers but the public too.

Figure 1: trench excavation

Expert Panel Comments

Find out more about the Expert Panels

Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

Poor safety in routine ground works is a perennial problem. There are innumerable examples of diggers and other heavy equipment falling into excavations and innumerable examples of ground collapse, many resulting deaths and injuries. Constant education of the dangers is required at every level.

No competent contractor would allow the situation shown in the photograph to develop and it reflects badly not only on the contractor responsible but also any other contractors involved in the project, and indeed the client which engaged them.

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