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Keeping safe when using an excavator

Accidents involving excavators can be particularly dangerous due to their size, weight and the speed in which and incident can occur. If appropriate precautions are not implemented, this can increase the risk of serious injury or even death.


Some of the common hazards related to excavators include:


  • Collapse of the excavation perimeter

  • People, machinery or other obstacles being hit by the excavator

  • Materials falling onto the people or machinery

  • People or machinery falling into the excavation

  • Undermining of nearby structures causing collapse into the excavation

  • Hitting underground services during excavation work (e.g. electricity, drainage, telecommunications)

  • Roll over or slipping of excavator on uneven surfaces


To help keep workers and equipment safe, excavation projects should be carefully planned and undertaken. A robust health and safety plan should be in place and this should be managed onsite by the site supervisor or foreman.


Basic risk management for an excavation project should include:

  • Identify hazards - Identify hazards that could harm or injure

  • Assess risks - Complete a risk assessment

  • Control risks - Elimination or minimisation of risks as is reasonably practical

  • Review controls - Constant review of implemented controls ensuring they remain effective

Further information on excavation safety is available on the Worksafe New Zealand website.