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What is shoring and how to safely shore up your construction project?

In construction, shoring is the practice of reinforcing a structure using strong temporary structures to prevent the collapse of materials or earth. A dug trench is deep and narrow. Trench walls should be stabilized with shoring materials to prevent accidents and protect workers. The shoring will also speed up the excavation process. However, it should be known that “shoring” is different from “shielding”. Shoring braces the structure to prevent land collapse, while “shielding” is the use of safety structures to protect workers in the event of a collapse.

Below are some of the different techniques used in trench shoring. Each technique is intended to safely stabilize the trench.

  1. Hydraulic shoring: Hydraulic rams are braced until they push against the trench walls. Steel plates or plywood (either 1-1/8″ thick, or a 7/8″ thick Finland Form {FINFORM} plywood) are used in collaboration with the pistons. This type of shoring speeds up the work and is the easiest method.
  2. Beam and plate: The beams are firmly planted in the ground and reinforced with steel plates in the middle. Soldier boarding, which uses wooden planks, also uses the same mechanism. This type of shoring is generally used for large excavations or for excavations that will last a long time.
  3. Soil nailing: Steel rebar and other strong, elongated bars are inserted into pre-drilled holes and sealed with a binding material (grout), or drilled and grouted at the same time to support slopes, walls, or excavations of ground. They are planted on a semi-down slope, without creating tension. Solitary or shotcrete nail heads are often used as flexible or rigid sheathing.
  4. Continuous Flight Drilling: Continuous Flight Drilling (CFA) is the process of using concrete piles to support the ground at an excavation site. A hole is created with a CFA drill and pressure is used to drive the concrete through the shaft when the auger is withdrawn. No holes are held back, as a connected stack is being made.

Safe shoring practices are necessary to prevent accidents when digging trenches. Standards are set by OSHA to ensure that these proper practices are followed. OSHA standards must be followed by all employees, no exceptions. On any job site, there should be one person specifically responsible for implementing safety rules, but compliance with these rules is everyone’s responsibility. This person is known as the Competent Person. The Competent Person, per OSHA standards, is the worker who must check the trench site and adjacent sites for safety at least once a day. He or she is responsible for surveying the site for a variety of factors that will determine the protection system to be used. Among the factors that the Competent Person must consider are:

  • Soil classification: the competent person must correctly identify the type of soil to decide the type of protection to use. Sometimes more than one type of soil can be found on a site.
  • Other factors: soil water content, depth of cut, changes in weather or climate, other operations occurring on the job site.

General safety rules must be implemented and followed, not just by the Competent Person, but by everyone in the workplace. Each worker must be aware of their responsibilities at all times and should not be afraid to seek clarification from a supervisor or the Competent Person, if necessary. It is better to ask than to assume when in doubt.

Proper use of safety equipment should be emphasized at all times in any workplace. Workers should always wear proper eye and hearing protection, as well as respirators, fall protection equipment, safety boots or shoes, and hard hats, as required by OSHA regulations. For excavations near road traffic, workers should wear bright vests so they are visible to passing cars. When shoring, always make sure the trench walls are strongly and securely braced using one of the above methods. In emergency situations, always follow OSHA regulations.

Shoring involves a certain degree of risk, but by following safety rules at all times, accidents can be prevented and trench work can be completed safely and efficiently.

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