Shoring is the provision of a support system for trench faces used to prevent movement of soil, underground utilities, roadways, and foundations. Shoring or shielding is used when the location or depth of the cut makes sloping back to the maximum allowable slope impractical. Shoring systems consist of posts, wales, struts, and sheeting. There are two basic types of shoring, timber and aluminum hydraulic. 




The trend today is toward the use of hydraulic shoring, a prefabricated strut and/or wale system manufactured of aluminum or steel. Hydraulic shoring provides a critical safety advantage over timber shoring because workers do not have to enter the trench to install or remove hydraulic shoring. Other advantages of most hydraulic systems are that they:

  • Are light enough to be installed by one worker;
  • Are gauge-regulated to ensure even distribution of pressure along the trench line;
  • Can have their trench faces "preloaded" to use the soil's natural cohesion to prevent movement; and
  • Can be adapted easily to various trench depths and widths.

All shoring should be installed from the top down and removed from the bottom up. Hydraulic shoring should be checked at least once per shift for leaking hoses and/or cylinders, broken connections, cracked nipples, bent bases, and any other damaged or defective parts.




Works in a manner similar to hydraulic shoring. The primary difference is that pneumatic shoring uses air pressure in place of hydraulic pressure. A disadvantage to the use of pneumatic shoring is that an air compressor must be on site.

  • Screw Jacks: Screw jack systems differ from hydraulic and pneumatic systems in that the struts of a screw jack system must be adjusted manually. This creates a hazard because the worker is required to be in the trench in order to adjust the strut. In addition, uniform "preloading" cannot be achieved with screw jacks, and their weight creates handling difficulties.
  • Single-Cylinder Hydraulic Shores: Shores of this type are generally used in a water system, as an assist to timber shoring systems, and in shallow trenches where face stability is required.
  • Underpinning: This process involves stabilizing adjacent structures, foundations, and other intrusions that may have an impact on the excavation. As the term indicates, underpinning is a procedure in which the foundation is physically reinforced. Underpinning should be conducted only under the direction and with the approval of a registered professional engineer.




Are different from shoring because, instead of shoring up or otherwise

supporting the trench face, they are intended primarily to protect

workers from cave-ins and similar incidents. The excavated area between

the outside of the trench box and the face of the trench should be as

small as possible. The space between the trench boxes and the excavation

side are backfilled to prevent lateral movement of the box. Shields may not be subjected to loads exceeding those which the system was designed to withstand.




Trench boxes are generally used in open areas, but they also may be used in combination with sloping and benching. The box should extend at least 18 in (0.45 m) above the surrounding area if there is sloping toward excavation. This can be accomplished by providing a benched area adjacent to the box.

Earth excavation to a depth of 2 ft (0.61 m) below the shield is permitted, but only if the shield is designed to resist the forces calculated for the full depth of the trench and there are no indications while the trench is open of possible loss of soil from behind or below the bottom of the support system. Conditions of this type require observation on the effects of bulging, heaving, and boiling as well as surcharging, vibration, adjacent structures, etc., on excavating below the bottom of a shield. Careful visual inspection of the conditions mentioned above is the primary and most prudent approach to hazard identification and control.



Maximum allowable slopes for excavations less than 20 ft (6.09 m) based on soil type and angle to the horizontal are as follows:

Soil type                                                               Height/Depth ratio                                           Slope angle

Stable Rock                                                                  Vertical                                                                 90°
Type A                                                                            ¾:1                                                                         53°
Type B                                                                            1:1                                                                          45°
Type C                                                                            
1½:1                                                                       34°

Type A (short-term)                                                   ½:1                                                                          63°

(For a maximum excavation depth of 12 ft)



BENCHING: There are two basic types of benching, simple and multiple. The type of soil determines the horizontal to vertical ratio of the benched side.

As a general rule, the bottom vertical height of the trench must not exceed 4 ft (1.2 m) for the first bench. Subsequent benches may be up to a maximum of 5 ft (1.5 m) vertical in Type A soil and 4 ft (1.2 m) in Type B soil to a total trench depth of 20 ft (6.0 m). All subsequent benches must be below the maximum allowable slope for that soil type. For Type B soil the trench excavation is permitted in cohesive soil only.


Temporary Spoil: Temporary spoil must be placed no closer than 2 ft (0.61 m) from the surface edge of the excavation, measured from the nearest base of the spoil to the cut. This distance should not be measured from the crown of the spoil deposit. This distance requirement ensures that loose rock or soil from the temporary spoil will not fall on employees in the trench.

Spoil should be placed so that it channels rainwater and other run-off water away from the excavation. Spoil should be placed so that it cannot accidentally run, slide, or fall back into the excavation.

Permanent Spoil: Permanent spoil should be placed at some distance from the excavation. Permanent spoil is often created where underpasses are built or utilities are buried. The improper placement of permanent spoil, i.e. insufficient distance from the working excavation, can cause an excavation to be out of compliance with the horizontal-to-vertical ratio requirement for a particular excavation. This can usually be determined through visual observation. Permanent spoil can change undisturbed soil to disturbed soil and dramatically alter slope requirements.