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Safety around excavations - fact sheet

Shoring excavation faces

If you employ, manage, or supervise anyone working on an excavation face higher than 1.5 metres, you need to ensure the face is shored with:

  • suitable material of sound quality and strong enough for the purpose
  • bracings, jacks, and struts to prevent accidental displacement
  • packings and wedges that are held by nails or spikes.


Shoring must be placed properly by an experienced person under competent supervision. It must not be altered, dismantled, or interfered with except on the instructions of the employer or their representative.



The need for shoring doesn’t apply if the:

  • face is cut back to a safe slope
  • face is made of material that can withstand reasonably foreseeable weather and work conditions
  • type of work and location of employees means there is no actual danger
  • requirement to shore is unreasonable and you take other safety precautions.


Excavations of hazardous depth

If you employ, manage, or supervise anyone working on an open excavation which could catch water deep enough to be dangerous, you need to ensure it’s covered or fenced when your employees aren’t there to prevent public access. The area must also be covered, fenced, or filled when the work is completed.


For further information about excavation safety, read the Approved Code of Practice for Excavations and Shafts for Foundations.



Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995, regulations 24 and 25


Last updated 5 April 2016


On Monday 4 April 2016, the New Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) came into effect.

HSWA repeals the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, with immediate effect.

All references to the 1992 Act on this website and within our guidance will be progressively removed.