Understanding Trench Boxes

Excavation and digging trenches are both cornerstones of construction. Another hallmark of construction is safety. The ability to safely dig and maintain trenches for utility purposes like laying pipe or laying cable is crucial to the country’s infrastructure.

Enter trench boxes. Trench boxes are devices mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on trenches of a certain depth; they’re metal cages or boxes that are affixed to the sides of trenches to protect the workers therein. This article will cover some basic information about trench boxes and underscore why they’re so important.

What is the purpose of trench boxes?

Trench boxes are made of either steel or aluminum with sidewalls consisting of spreaders or panels; they are required by OSHA on trenches that are at least 5 feet deep. They’re not installed to completely prevent cave-ins but to safeguard the workers in the trench from bearing the brunt of the pressure of the soil coming down on them if there’s a collapse.

Why are trench boxes necessary?

If you’ve ever tried to lift a bag of potting soil, you understand how heavy it truly is. In fact, one cubic foot of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds, which is as much as some automobiles. Workers in the trench could suffer severe injuries or death if they were caught under thousands of pounds of soil. Therefore, trench boxes are an OSHA requirement.

What are some benefits to using trench boxes?

There are multiple benefits to using trench boxes. The first and most obvious benefit is that it makes the trench safer to operate in for the workers. In that same vein, having support walls also increases the stability of the trench, which is important when working inside the trench.

The third benefit is that it decreases the amount of soil that needs to be excavated and backfilled. This is because the trench walls can be made steeper since the trench boxes are being put in place to safeguard against a cave-in.

Are there any disadvantages to using trench boxes?

Only if they are used incorrectly or for the wrong application. For example, trench boxes need to be moved along the trench with a piece of heavy machinery (like a crane), so they aren’t well suited to being used on underground utility work or on meandering pipe systems.

Second, the sizing, weight and grade need to be precisely accurate. If your trench box is too small for your trench (or doesn’t fit inside it properly), it’s going to be harder to move and possibly ineffective. If it weighs so much that your crane has difficulty moving it, then that’s going to be an issue as well.

For this reason, it’s important to get an expert’s opinion on the size, weight and thickness of your trench box.

Call for your contractor equipment today

When used correctly, trench boxes can make workers much safer when they’re working in the trenches. So if you’d like to rent or buy trench boxes or any other construction equipment, give us a call at Central Equipment Company. We offer all kinds of new and used, high-quality equipment to help you complete your commercial or residential construction project.

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