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Excavation Work

Hazard, Risk and Remedy information herein adapted from Safe Work Australia material. Definition of Excavation work herein may not represent a legal definition.

Excavation work generally means work involving the removal of soil or rock from a site to form an open face, hole or cavity using tools, machinery or explosives.

Specific duties apply in relation to the higher-risk excavations, such as trenches, shafts and tunnels. However, these requirements do not apply to a mine, a bore to which a relevant water law applies or a trench used as a place of interment.

Any construction work (including any work connected with an ‘excavation’) that is carried out in or near a shaft or trench with an excavated depth greater than 1.5 metres, or a tunnel which is considered to be ‘high risk construction work’ , additional responsibilities exist including the preparation of a safe work method statement (SWMS) prior to excavation activities.


Risks involving excavation are similar to those involved in the use of plant, construction and demolition. Some include but aren’t limited to;

  • Interruption or damage to underground services such as gas, water, sewerage, telecommunications, electricity, chemicals, fuel and refrigerant in pipes or lines
  • Injuries from falling or dislodged objects, earth or rock
  • Compromising stability of adjoining structure
  • Inrush of water or other liquid
  • Injury due to hazardous manual tasks
  • Injury from hazardous chemicals
  • Build-up of hazardous atmosphere in an excavation
  • Vibration and noise related injuries
  • Damage from broken power lines and ground mounted essential services


Using an approved code of practice or risk management strategy, in conjunction with professional regulatory advice perform a hazard identification and risk assessment, then implement controls to ensure the person conducting the business or undertaking manages risks associated with excavations.


Information SourceContents
Code of Practice - How to Manage Work Health and Safety Risks This code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety
Code of Practice – Managing the risks of plant in the workplace Risk management strategy for managing risks associated with plant in the workplace. Please note this is guidance only and not a legislative instrument.
Code of Practice - Excavation Work Specific risk management strategy relating to excavation work
Code of Practice - Construction Work Specific risk management strategy relating to construction work
UK Health & Safety Executive - Structural stability during excavations

UK Health & Safety Executive - Excavation and underground services

UK Health & Safety Executive - Preventing accidents in excavations.

General information on mitigating Health and Safety risks involving excavation activities


Information source What it contains
Incident notification - Part 3, Section 35 to 37 of the Work, Health and Safety Act 2011 The legislative requirements for incident notification to Comcare
Comcare - Guide to incident notification Helps you decide whether you need to notify Comcare of an injury, illness or dangerous incident under the WHS Act
Page last updated: 10 May 2019