Excavators support and protect exposed underground facilities from damage.
Protecting exposed underground facilities is as important as preventing damage to the facility when digging around the utility. Protecting exposed underground facilities helps ensure that the utility is not damaged and, at the same time, protects employees working in the vicinity of the exposed facility. Exposed facilities can shift, separate, or be damaged when they are no longer supported or protected by the soil around them. Excavators support or brace exposed facilities and protect them from moving or shifting, which could result in damage to the facility. This can be accomplished in different ways; for example, by shoring the facility from below or by providing a timber support with hangers across the top of an excavation to ensure that the facility does not move or bend. In addition, workers are instructed to not climb on, strike, or attempt to move exposed facilities that could damage protective coatings, bend conduit, separate pipe joints, damage cable insulation, damage fiber optics, or in some way affect the integrity of the facility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also has addressed this issue in Subpart P—Excavation Standard 29 CFR 1926.651(b)(4), which states “While the excavation is open, underground installations shall be protected, supported, or removed as necessary to safeguard employees.” For example, an unsupported sewer main could shift, causing the pipe joints to separate, which could result in the trench where employees are working to flood, endangering the safety of employees.