Excavation Safety: Hand Digging Tools
Introduction: There are many types of heavy equipment available for digging and earth moving which allow efficient performance of excavation work. However, whenever excavation work approaches buried utilities, or accurate finishing of an excavation is required, hand digging is necessary to accomplish the job safely or accurately. Following are guidelines for the safe use of hand digging tools:
- Safe distance between employees must be maintained by all personnel when working with hand digging tools in an excavation. Sufficient space to safely operate a shovel, pick, or digging bar is a requirement to avoid injury when using hand digging tools
- Use of non-conductive handled tools is required around any energized electrical equipment. Fiberglass handled tools are usually the best for this type work
- Stay alert at all times to what is going on around you while you are digging. Knowing the location of your coworkers, the proximity of heavy equipment, and the conditions of the excavation you may be working in are all vital to safety
- Use extreme caution when uncovering buried utilities with hand tools. A pick or shovel may easily pierce electrical insulation, or crack a gas or water line
- Wear heavy work boots or steel toe boots with non-slip or heavy lug soles for hand digging work
- Ensure that you have secure footing, as level as possible, when working with digging tools
- Do not use a tool with a broken head or a cracked handle
- Keep your feet, and your co-workers feet, clear of where you are digging, picking, or using a digging bar
- Use a steady pace when moving a large amount of material with a shovel or using any digging tool. A smooth, regular movement will get the job done with less chance of injury or fatigue.
- Digging or shoveling is hard on the back; use your arms and legs as much as possible when lifting, twisting as little as possible when throwing material
- Do not use the shovel for a pry bar/digging bar
- Ensure that pick heads are secured to the handle before use
- Pay attention to where you are throwing your material, especially when working around other people.
Conclusion: It is a good idea to do some back stretching exercises before throwing yourself into a large hand digging job.
Keeping your abdominal muscles in shape through regular exercise will help to keep your back in shape for digging.