The death of a former fellow student and friend is hard, and in this
instance happened when (as I recall) he entered the trench alone when nobody
else was present. A similar death occurred recently in completely different
circumstances due to someone entering an unshored trench which collapsed on
him; I believe the company in question, and perhaps the Director, were
I argued the case that archaeologists should seek dispensation from HASAWA
in much the same way as steeplejacks because (and I still believe it) few of
us would not 'take a risk' if we saw something of potentially immense
significance. This is not the same as saying that I think we should take
such risks, but is a recognition that we would probably do so.
I was pilloried - if I recall correctly, on this board.
But piling is not necessarily a safe solution. At Gloucester in the 1960s
one of our (then amateur) local archaeologists spent much of the day
removing a large collection of bone inlays from an excavation with
substantially-piled edges. On returning to the site the following day all he
found was a heap of debris where the side had collapsed, buckling and
bending the shoring in the process.
In commercial pipe-laying the solution is usually 'boxes' which are moved
along following the back-hoe. The problem for archaeologists is, however,
that it makes sections nigh-on impossible to view.
On this basis, probably the only truly 'safe' answer is that already
suggested - digging down over a much wider area than is expected to be need
for the base of the excavation, so that natual slumping can not occur.
From: Lyle E. Browning
Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 9:18 PM Subject: Re: Digging in sand
Back in the early 1970's, we all quite happily dug vertical holes with
backhoes and crawled down in them to record profiles and take samples. Maybe
not quite happily but it did happen. Then one fine day a fellow at York who
had a wife and 2 small children was at the bottom of what was apparently a
stable section and it smashed him flat. For years after that, every
conference had something about shoring and site safety. I have seen sections
dug into sand slough off and while I might have survived, the broken legs
and destroyed knees would have made subsequent life a tad more difficult.
Didn't some of us publish guidance documents on shoring in the 70's and
80's? The thing about sand is that it is vertical one instant and on the
bottom of the trench the next.
Shore the hell out of it and get on with it. I worked on a construction site
that went down 23 feet and the sides were "shuttered" with steel I-beams
with 3" oak planks in between. As the depth increased, they simply fed in
more board from the top. I-beam comes in various sizes. I would suggest
driving that into the face and digging no more than 3 feet down, drawing the
profile, then pushing the planks down and proceeding in that manner to the
bottom, lest ye be smashed flat.