Trenching and Excavation for Public Employees in Massachusetts

The Code of Massachusetts Regulations 520 CMR 14.00, requires all contractors to be familiar with OSHA excavation and trenching regulations for worker safety. 

Private and Public employers conducting trenching and excavation on public  or private property must:

  • Comply with OSHA 1926.651 for worker safety
  • Comply with 520 CMR 14.00  for public safety
  • Notify Dig Safe
  • Obtain a trench permit from the local permitting authority
  • Equipment operators must have a Hoisting License issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety. See

To comply with Trenching and Excavation Requirements, public employers must provide at a minimum:

  • Protect workers from cave-in by using a trench box, shoring, or sloping when:
    • Trench is deeper than 5 feet;
    • Trench is less than 5 feet deep but soil conditions indicate a potential cave-in hazard;
    • Trench is less than 5 feet deep but workers are located so that their waist is below the surface.
  • Protect workers from cave-in when there is water in the trench.
  • Provide ladders every 25 feet for trench egress.
  • Obtain Dig-Safe authorization.
  • Inspect trench conditions daily.
  • Inspect excavation equipment before each use.
  • Train workers.

Under MGL c. 149, section 6, the Department of Labor Standards can issue a civil penalty for each violation.  Public employers who implement a comprehensive Trenching and Excavation program in compliance with OSHA 29 CFR 1926.651 will be considered to meet Massachusetts requirements for public employees.

Technical Assistance Bulletins:

407 Trenching Hazard Alert

Sample Policies for Trench Safety