Excavations: the contractor’s responsibilities

May 29th, 2014, Published in Articles: Vector


According to Regulation 13 (Excavation) of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, contractors performing excavation work shall ensure that all excavation work is done under the supervision of a competent person appointed in writing for that purpose. The contractor must also evaluate the stability of the ground as far as reasonably practicable before excavation work begins.

In addition, the contractor must also take “reasonable and sufficient steps” to prevent persons from being buried or trapped by a fall or dislodgement of material in an excavation and may not require or permit any person to work in an excavation which has not been shored or braced adequately.

Shoring and bracing may, however, not be necessary where the sides of the excavation are sloped to at least the maximum angle of repose measured relative to the horizontal plane or where the excavation is in stable material. In such cases, written permission is required from a specially appointed competent person, upon evaluation by him or her of the site conditions.

Where any uncertainty pertaining to the stability of the soil exists, the decision must be made by a professional engineer or a professional technologist competent in excavations. This decision must be noted in writing and signed by both the competent person and the professional engineer or technologist.

The contractor must also:


  • Take steps to ensure that the shoring or bracing is designed and constructed in a manner that renders it strong enough to support the sides of the excavation in question.
  • Ensure that no load, material, plant or equipment is placed or moved near the edge of any excavation where it may cause its collapse and consequently endangers the safety of any person, unless precautions such as the provision of sufficient and suitable shoring or bracing are taken to prevent the sides from collapsing.
  • Ensure that, where the stability of an adjoining building, structure or road is likely to be affected by excavation, steps are taken to ensure the stability of such building, structure or road and the safety of persons.
  • Provide convenient and safe means of access to every excavation in which persons are required to work, and such access may not be further than 6 m from the point where any worker within the excavation is working.
  • Ascertain the location and nature of electricity, water, gas or other similar services which may in any way be affected by the work, and must render the circumstances safe for all persons involved before the commencement of excavation work.
  • Ensure that every excavation, including all bracing and shoring, is inspected daily, prior to the commencement of each shift and after every blasting operation and unexpected fall of ground, as well as after damage to the supports and following rain.


Contact Nico van den Berg, Independent Inspectors, Tel 079 766 5346,nico@independent-inspectors.co.za

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