What do excavation workers do?

Whenever there is a new construction project, the help of an excavation worker is almost always necessary before the building work takes place. This is because some debris may be hindering the progress of the project or there is a need to dig a hole or trench around the area. But what do excavation workers really do?

Essentially, excavation workers prepare a particular site by digging the foundation, trenching, moving dirt, grading, and leveling the landscape. Excavation work mainly involves the removal or transfer of earth, rock, and soil to form a cavity or hole using a variety of tools, machinery, and even explosives.

Contactors can do their work not only in residential areas but also in public sites and for commercial purposes. As long as the job includes digging, then a professional excavation worker has the training and skills along with the essential knowledge necessary to complete the project themselves properly and safely.

What does excavation work entail?

Contrary to what many people may believe, excavation workers do a lot more than digging. Sure, their job primarily focuses on doing earthwork, but other services like site preparation will also be crucial to complete the work successfully. After all, when there is debris around the property, excavation and then construction may not be able to take place.

Qualifications of a good excavator

To keep the excavation process safe, secure, and away from the potential risks and hazards, it is recommended that only ‘competent persons’ can do the work at an excavation site. But what does a competent person mean?

A competent excavation worker is someone that has:

1.     A license or is certified to do excavation work

Depending on the state where they do their business, a contractor may be required to earn a license or be certified before they can legally offer their services to their clients. This is especially the case for those who want to do excavation work for commercial sites.

2.     Sufficient knowledge and training about excavations and related industries

Excavations are far from being easy. In fact, contractors who specialize in it will need to be well-versed and skilled in other practices such as geography and soil classification. A professional excavation worker should know and consider the various soil types, slopes, surcharges, among other things such as grading and earthmoving.

3.     Experience with practicing safe working methods in a job site

In the United States but also in other countries, excavation and trenching work are proven to be some of the most dangerous jobs that may result in injuries or fatal accidents. Because of this, a competent worker should not only know about the significant excavation methods but also practice safe working methods in every job site.

4.     Skills to operate various machinery and equipment

Finally, a competent excavation contractor will not be called such if they are not able to operate heavy machinery. Depending on the type of project, a worker should be prepared to use a backhoe, compactor, dump truck, bulldozer, and other equipment to complete the work.

Since it is not always possible to have all skills in one person, excavation companies form teams with well-rounded individuals.

Services that excavators provide

Of course, excavation contractors primarily do excavation work. But they offer a variety of services that go hand in hand in the process. These workers dig holes, grade land, trench foundations and basements, roads and driveways, sewer lines, plumbing systems, drainage, and landscaping.

  • Excavation work for basements and foundations

As said earlier, the primary focus of most excavation workers is to dig the earth for construction projects. This is often the case when homeowners need to build a foundation or a basement in their property. Since basements and foundations are usually partially or entirely below ground level, digging is necessary to remove the dirt and start the building process. In many situations, some of the hauled dirt may be replaced to level out the area.

For this purpose, it is essential that the worker knows the best methods to remove the earth while also considering the future drainage issues in the property. When excavations are not done properly, this can be the reason behind a leaking basement or a weak foundation.

  • Trenching for utilities

Understandably, the terms ‘excavation’ and ‘trenching’ may be used interchangeably as both of them are a digging process. However, trenching is a type of excavation that technically exceeds its depth than its width. This type of digging method is usually done in order to install utility lines or retrace them for repair, replacement, or removal.

Trenches are usually narrow and may require the use of manual tools or special equipment to reach the desired depth.

  • Demolition and hauling

During a specific construction project, it may not be possible to start the building process without addressing the existing structures first. Because of this, certain excavation companies offer demolition services in their packages.

Like the usual excavation work, demolition requires extensive experience and knowledge. If not done properly, it is possible to result in damages or accidents that can be expensive to repair. Hauling services can also be offered to dispose of the demolished material properly. Since recycling is highly preferred, local excavation workers usually look for ways to reuse the materials as long as it is safe to do so.

  • Property grading

Properties that are negatively graded can cause their owner a lot of headaches. When an area is unlevel or with a negative grade, this may mean that the soil around the property is prone to erosion. Also, the foundation and basements may ruin their structure quickly once water pools around them, weakening their integrity.

Many excavation contractors are trained to address this issue, plus, they know how to operate the equipment. Because of this, grading is one of the services they know best.

  • Drainage system installations

For areas that are prone to be wet or have poor soil, having an inexistent drainage system may cause a property owner a lot of money. If the water in the area does not have anywhere they can go to, they will stay around their yard’s low points, which could be their foundations.

Fortunately, excavation works are equipped to install drainage systems effectively. Their knowledge of soil composition and slopes proves to be useful during the installation while also considering the appearance of the yard.

The dangers in doing excavation work

Every year, contractors may get injured during the process of excavating a property. Because of this, it is crucial for workers to practice safe methods and do ample pre-planning before the digging begins.

As a solution, the first step that must be done before starting excavation is to identify potential risks and hazards. This must be carried out by a qualified professional in order to properly detect each and every potential risk and create a plan to control the hazards and prevent unfortunate accidents from happening. Therefore, codes and standards must be implemented and followed for a smooth and safe digging process.

Potential hazards during excavation and trenching

  • Accidentally hitting utility lines

During the process of digging, it is possible for workers to accidentally hit utility lines either manually or when using machinery. Unfortunately, these utility lines are not meant to be messed with. Electrical lines, plumbing, and gas lines are meant to be turned off and located before starting excavation work. Once tampered with, this may result in electrocution or gas leaks which can be very fatal.

  • Injuries caused by improper handling and operating of machinery

As mentioned earlier, it takes a lot of skill and experience to operate heavy machinery. Just one wrong move can cause serious accidents that may cause the demise of a contractor. Also, it is possible to get struck by a backhoe or get crushed by a compactor. Since it is easy to get injured in this industry, it will always be necessary to wear protection and safety gear.

  • Insufficient oxygen levels

Trenching and excavations require digging holes for a particular project. In some situations where the workers may fall into the hole, they may not be able to get the sufficient amount of oxygen they require, which can cause fatal damage. Also, it is possible for the workers to get exposed to a hazardous atmosphere which can lead to serious illnesses or accidents.

  • Falling into an excavated or trenched hole

Another potential risk workers should watch out for in a job site involves falling into an excavated or trenched hole. Contrary to what we know, this can be a common occurrence, though this should ideally never be the case. Hence, each contractor should keep their eyes peeled and stay alert, or they may fall or crush their co-workers during the earth moving process.

  • Cave-ins or collapses

One of the most serious hazards that workers face during excavation work is cave-ins. Unfortunately, many reports say that trench collapses cause the fatal deaths of at least two contractors every month. This is exactly why inspections are necessary before the digging work as it allows the owner and contractor to prepare for the risks accordingly and therefore, prevent cave-ins and other accidents from happening.

How much will it cost to hire an excavation contractor?

When it comes to earthwork, the expenses to complete the job can be expensive. Hence, many of us will find the information below very useful to prepare for the costs of hiring an excavation contractor.

There are many factors that will help determine the total costs of the excavation work. Some of these are the following:

1.    The dimensions of the area

When we talk about the expenses included during an excavation work, the primary influence of the expense is the dimensions of the area. The general rule goes like this: the bigger the area that needs service, the higher the costs you will need to pay.

2.    The type of excavation work required

The costs of hiring an excavation contractor will mainly depend on the type of project you are doing. Here are the average costs of each of their usual work designations:

  • Excavation work for basements and foundations

On average, excavation work may cost around 1,000 to 5,000 dollars for residential projects.

  • Trenching for utilities

For trenching, expect to pay around 400 to 1,200 dollars for the digging services.

  • Demolition and hauling

For residential properties, demolishing a building may start at a rate of 3,000 dollars and up.

  • Property grading

On average, residential property grading can cost around 350 to 1,000 dollars.

  • Drainage system installations

Residential drainage system installations may cost between 1,500 to 6,000 dollars.

Aside from the type of excavation service you need, do not forget that you will need to pay to secure the necessary permits set by your state. Since not all projects require permits, you should ask your local municipality about the process to be sure. Doing this gives you permission to start doing your project without the risk of getting fined due to unauthorized digging.

3.    The necessary tools and machinery

Are manual tools enough to complete the project? Or is it necessary to bring out the heavy equipment? Renting and transporting the machinery could cost a lot, which is why it is recommended to look for a contractor that already has the necessary equipment so that the total costs may be lower.

Also, make sure that the company you hire has insurance. Operating heavy machinery require skill and knowledge, as it can be easy for it to result in unfortunate accidents. Some of the equipment you may need during an excavation project is a backhoe, trencher, compactor, and bulldozer.

4.    The type of soil and vegetation in the area

As mentioned earlier, the type of excavated material can vary depending on the particular project. Because of this, the soil composition in the area can be a very important factor that will influence your total expenses.

For example, if the soil composition is easier to handle and will not cause any significant risks during the excavation work, then your costs may not be affected. However, if the soil is too sandy that causes drainage issues, then expect the cost to be slightly higher. Also, having debris and vegetation around the area can make the job more complex, hence, more expensive.

5.    The hourly rate of the contractor

The labor costs of a contractor highly differ depending on the state, their experience, and their training. If you want to hire an expert contractor, then expect to pay higher fees. Many excavation contractors charge their rate hourly, especially for smaller projects.

Before hiring an excavation worker, ask about their preferred way to charge for their services. This allows you to prepare your budget, especially when the project takes longer than what you may expect.

6.    The location of the project

Finally, one of the factors that will influence your expenses is the location of the project where excavation work will take place. Usually, urban areas charge more than rural areas as the demand is higher and the costs of living are also more expensive.

Aside from that, we have to remember that excavation work may require the use of heavy machinery. Since it can be challenging to transport the equipment, you may have to pay for the travel costs, especially if your area is densely populated or far from the mainland.

Since not all projects are the same, the best thing for you is to get price quotes from different companies. This way, you will have a general idea of how much money you need to prepare for the particular excavation work you require.