Safety Legislation and Excavations on Construction Sites

All contractors that carry out excavations have a duty to comply with several pieces of legislation.

The main ones are the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. Contractors should generally also follow, The Construction Design & Management Regulations 2007, and must be conversant with HSG 47 Avoiding Danger from Underground Services 2000.

Another useful training course is the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA) training course. 


Each project will have their own methods and procedures that will be unique to the company and to the specific requirements of the job. However a generalised overview of the methods required by contractors are outlined here. Contractors must be aware and observe the following methods prior to work operations commencing:

  • The location of the underground services
  • Understand the ground conditions including and soil contamination and control measures required
  • The protection of other persons who may be affected
  • The need for adequate excavation supports, safe access/egress, suitable barriers and signage, dewatering etc.
  • The provision of adequate operatives suitably trained and briefed in site specific hazards.
  • Undertake and maintain records of inspection as laid down in The Construction Design & Management Regulations 2007.


To comply with NRSWA provision should be made for the utilising of signs, fencing and barriers to keep pedestrians and vehicles separated from each other. There will be many safety signs associated with this form of works however we have highlighted three that will be of particular use during excavation works.


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