The primary business of excavation contractors in the
construction industry is land preparation. Their work often
involves operating heavy machinery to dig, move and grade
the earth for various construction projects. Such practices
include digging the foundation to exacting dimensions,
grading to provide a level surface, and trenching to
accommodate water, sewage or utility pipelines. Excavation
contractors may also clear land and perform some types
of concrete work, such as pouring foundations for roads,
houses or other buildings. Due to their wide variety of
operations, these professionals are often exposed to various
safety, liability and property risks. That’s why it’s vital to
have effective loss control measures in place. This resource
outlines common risks excavation contractors must address
and offers helpful strategies to avoid possible claims.
Excavation contractors face many inland marine
exposures, especially since they often use their own
excavation and construction equipment at job sites.
Inadequate maintenance procedures and a lack of
prevention protocols can result in equipment damage,
which could lead to significant interruptions and costly
repair or replacement expenses. Excavation contractors
should consider these steps to limit risks:
• Keep a detailed list of machinery. Each item should
include an identifying number, age, type and condition.
• Add nonremovable labels to mobile equipment to
allow for easy and permanent identification.
• Implement an effective mobile equipment inspection
and maintenance program to help keep equipment
in good condition and prevent safety issues during
operation. Clean equipment tracks at the end of each
day to prevent any issues from arising.
• Implement security measures to prevent the
unauthorized use of equipment left at job sites. These
measures can include installing security cameras,
locking equipment doors and hiring on-site security.
• Conduct daily operation checks on heavy equipment
to make sure there are no issues with the machinery.
Premises and Operations
The nature of excavation and trenching operations
poses various liability concerns. For example, third-party
damage and injuries to bystanders can lead to costly
liability claims. Therefore, it’s important for excavation
contractors to take the following measures to limit their
premises and operations liability:
• Develop appropriate safety protocols for excavation
operations. This includes implementing programs for
soil classification and identification, excavation safety
plans and the use of excavation protection systems.
• Make sure all operations are conducted in accordance
with applicable OSHA regulations, including making
sure trenching boxes are used for trenching activities
• Ensure all excavation contractors are appropriately
licensed and experienced for the task at hand before
• Require all contractors to utilize a detailed inspection
checklist when conducting maintenance procedures.
• Use signage to signal there is open trenching.
• Develop and implement procedures for inspecting a
job site before work begins. This includes determining
where earth moving will occur, where spoil piles will be
located and what areas are around the job site.
• Ensure site security measures—such as fences or
security personnel—prevent the general public from
trespassing on job sites. If working around high vehicle
traffic areas, ensure signs and barricades are utilized to
protect workers, vehicle traffic and pedestrians.
Claims against excavation contractors tend to be more
costly than they are frequent. Property damage—such
as improperly settling backfill, soil erosion or damage
to underground structures or lines—or injuries to a third
party after contracted operations have been completed
can result in serious and costly ramifications. To minimize
completed operations exposures, excavation contractors
should follow these protocols:
• Ensure all areas have been marked and identified for
any underground utilities. In addition, surveys should
be completed prior to the start of digging or working.
There should be a program in place to make sure
these steps are completed.
• Train operators on how to properly excavate or trench
to prevent issues with soil compaction after the site
excavation. Employees should also be trained to know
the proper type of heavy equipment necessary for the
• Confirm that the proper environmental protection
measures were completed before and after the
excavation of a job site to prevent erosion issues.
• Conduct inspections of pipelines or utilities by
a competent inspector, and consult necessary
government officials to ensure all applicable state,
federal and local ordinances were followed.
Employee Safety As with any employer, excavation contractors must
protect their employees from illnesses and injuries on
the job. In regards to excavation operations, safeguarding
employees from occupational risks (e.g., trenching caveins,
falls into open trenches, and caught-in or caughtbetween
injuries) is vital to prevent potential incidents.
With this in mind, these professionals should implement
these employee safety measures:
• Establish a written training program that outlines
excavation safety measures, including establishing a
competent person for the job site, personal protective
equipment (PPE) protocols, and inspection and training
procedures for employees who work in trenches and
• Perform a PPE survey to determine which types of PPE
are needed for each work task. Provide all necessary
PPE to employees and educate them on the proper
use of this equipment.
• Ensure that a competent person is regularly inspecting
trenching and excavations to ensure that the proper
safety prevention techniques are being followed.
• Train employees on how to use equipment and how to
properly dig trenches and perform excavations.
• Develop an effective workplace safety training
program that requires all employees to participate in
routine training. Doing so will allow new employees
to prepare for their roles while refreshing experienced
employees on important safety protocols.
• Make sure equipment is kept in working order and the
safety mechanisms—such as alarms, seat belts and
roll cages—are also operational.
• Create an incident investigation program that allows
swift and thorough incident investigations to take