Persistent rain has driven a rise in excavation accidents on farms and construction sites, the regulator for workplace safety in New South Wales says.

In its latest announcement, Safe Work NSW said that it will extend its Excavation and Earthmoving Plant Safey program until April next year.

The move follows a rise in incidents involving excavators and other moving plant.

In June, a 19-year-old apprentice sustained multiple fractures and needed to be rescued by other workers following the collapse of a section of a two-meter-high unsupported trench on a residential building site.

The apprentice had been clearing the trench and had been positioned on the trench.

That same month, a 33-year-old farmer died after sustaining fatal head injuries during the extraction of a bogged bulldozer at his neighbor’s farm.

The man had been assisting his neighbor with the extraction when one of the two D-Shackles connecting the recovery strap failed. He was propelled through the glass door of the bulldozer.

In its statement, SafeWork NSW said the rise in incidents has been driven by persistent rain which had impacted ground conditions.

It stressed that ground conditions needed to be regularly monitored – especially following heavy rain.

If in doubt, advice should be sought from a geo-technician.

In addition, SafeWork pointed to the need to check the location of utilities and services with Before You Dig Australia before commencing any excavation.

It says ‘digging blind’ is a common causes of accidents involving excavators and other earthmoving equipment.

Head of SafeWork NSW Natasha Mann said the importance of safety when working with excavations should not be underestimated.

“Excavations on construction sites and farms are high-risk activities. Risk management precautions must be in place with conditions continuously monitored,” she said.

“Business owners, site managers and supervisors must consult with workers to fully assess potential risk and complete a Safe Work Method Statement before any excavation work starts, ensuring trenches are safe from collapse.

“Workers can be severely injured if they are struck by earthmoving equipment or if their equipment comes into contact with electrical assets.

“‘Digging blind’ is one of the main causes of electrocution and so SafeWork NSW is collaborating with Before You Dig Australia to increase awareness of their free service. Before starting any excavation check with Before You Dig Australia so you know the location of utilities and services.

“Proper planning before work begins and ongoing monitoring of ground conditions is essential, especially following flooding or heavy rain. If in doubt we recommend consulting further with a geotechnical engineer.

“The consequences of failing to properly to assess site conditions can be fatal.”