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An excavation means a trench, tunnel or shaft, but does not include a mine, water bore, or a trench for use as a place of interment.

Excavation work introduces a number of risks that must be managed, including the risk of:

  • a person falling into the excavation
  • a person being trapped by the collapse of an excavation
  • a person working in the excavation being struck by a falling object
  • a person working in the excavation being exposed to an airborne contaminant.

Excavations carried out with the aid of explosives introduce additional significant risks and are addressed separately.


The specific requirements for excavations, including trenches, are located in the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, Division 3 – Excavation work and are summarised below.

Specific legislative requirements for excavation work

Excavation work

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage risks to health and safety associated with excavation work

WHS Regulation 2011, s305

Construction work

Excavation work is considered construction work under the WHS Regulation 2011 and must be carried out in accordance with the relevant regulations

WHS Regulation 2011 – Chapter 6 – Construction Work

Safe work method statements

Safe work method statements are required for all high risk construction work, including any construction work that:

  • involves a risk of a person falling 2 metres or more
  • is carried out in or near a shaft or trench with an excavated depth greater than 1.5 metres or a tunnel
  • is carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services
  • is carried out in an area in which there is the movement of powered mobile plant

WHS Regulation 2011, s291 and s299

Underground essential services

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) with management or control of a workplace where excavation work is to be carried out must:

  • obtain current underground essential services information relating to the workplace and areas adjacent to the workplace, before commencing the work
  • have regard to the information
  • provide the information to other duty holder involved in the work

WHS Regulation 2011, s304


A PCBU excavating a trench of at least 1.5 metres deep must, so far as is reasonably practicable, secure the work area from unauthorised access, including inadvertent entry

WHS Regulation 2011, s306

Notifiable incidents

The collapse or failure of an excavation or of any shoring supporting an excavation is a dangerous incident and must be notified to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

View additional information about the notification of dangerous incidents, including the notification form

WHS Act 2011, s35, s36, s37, s38 and s39