NSC expo
Subscribe or Register
View Cart  

Earn recertification points from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals by taking a quiz about this issue.

What's Your Opinion?

Are you concerned about how new laws regarding medical and recreational marijuana will affect workplace safety?

Take the poll and add your comment.

Vote Results
Safety Tips | Ergonomics

Ergonomic digging techniques

September 1, 2010

  • / Print
  • Reprints
  • Text Size:
    A A

Manually digging and trenching can be very physically demanding work, made even more dangerous when proper techniques are not employed. Potential hazards recognized by OSHA include:

  • Muscle strain from attempting to lift too much dirt at one time
  • Overexertion and muscle pain caused by digging for extended periods of time
  • Awkward positions while digging, such as twisting the back or knee

The agency points out several ergonomic solutions that can help eliminate the risk of injury from manually digging:

  • Rather than twisting at the torso, move your feet and turn your entire body when digging or moving dirt.
  • Use tools with long handles to prevent excessive bending of the torso.
  • Make sure you are using the correct shovel for the job: 
  • Round-bladed shovels should be used for sand and dry earth. 
  • Square-bladed shovels should be used for coarse material. 
  • Use shovels with a rolled step for digging in hard earth. 
  • Use smaller trenching shovels to minimize the weight of materials lifted.
  • Break jobs into smaller tasks no longer than 15 minutes in length, alternating with non-
    digging tasks.
  • Alternate between shoveling on the left and right side of the body.
  • Reduce throwing distance by placing wheelbarrows close to the digging area. Ideally, throw distance should be between 3 and 4 feet.
  • Always use proper personal protective equipment.
  • When possible, use a mechanical device such as a trencher or a backhoe to assist with digging.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy.