Ground Disturbance Activities: The Dangers and How to Mitigate Them

Ground disturbance activities can cause soil erosion, damage to vegetation, and subsidence. However, with the proper knowledge and experience, businesses can operate safely and legally. We will also provide tips on mitigating these effects and ensuring minimal environmental impact on your project.

What Are Ground Disturbance Activities?

Ground disturbance activities include excavation, trenching, drilling, and blasting. Any construction or development project will involve some form of ground disturbance. The cultivation of the soil for agricultural purposes and other similar activities are not ground disturbance activities.

While ground disturbance activities can positively impact the environment, such as creating new buildings and infrastructure, they can also cause significant damage if not carried out correctly.

Performing Ground Disturbance Activities

When performing ground disturbance activities, it is essential to take the necessary precautions to ensure safety. All workers should be aware of potential hazards and safely work around them. You should take the following steps when undertaking ground disturbance activities:

  • Review the site-specific safety plan and ensure all workers are familiar with it
  • Establish a safe work area and ensure workers are aware of their surroundings
  • Use the proper tools and equipment for the job
  • If your state requires it, call 811 to have utility lines marked
  • Never work under the ground if you cannot see what you are doing
  • Ensure the area is adequately barricaded and warning signs are visible
  • Do not overload equipment or personnel
  • Take regular breaks and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Inspect all equipment before use, and report any defects immediately
  • Follow all safety guidelines related to ground disturbance activities

By following these simple steps, you can help keep your workers safe and avoid potential accidents. If you have any questions or concerns about ground disturbance activities, please contact your local health and safety authority. They will provide you with more information and guidance on safely conducting these activities.

The Benefits of Ground Disturbance Activities

While ground disturbance activities can harm the environment, they also have many benefits. These activities can help create new buildings and infrastructure, which can, in turn, improve the economy and quality of life in a community. They can also provide jobs for residents and stimulate the local economy.

In addition to creating new infrastructure, ground disturbance activities can also help maintain and improve existing infrastructure. By properly excavating and trenching, you can avoid potential damage to the infrastructure and ensure its long-term stability.

The Dangers of Ground Disturbance Activities

Ground disturbance activities can cause several environmental problems, including soil erosion, damage to vegetation, and ground subsidence. Therefore, while often necessary, ground disturbance activities can pose a severe threat to the environment if not carried out with care.

Soil erosion can occur when topsoil is removed or disturbed, exposing the subsoil to rain and wind. Erosion can lead to a loss of nutrients in the soil, a decrease in its ability to retain water, and increased flooding. It is imperative that you consider an erosion specialist like Erizon erosion control to help you make sure that the ground is prepared against erosion. 

In addition to soil erosion, ground disturbance activities can also damage vegetation. This type of damage is due to the construction of roads and buildings, which can cut through forests and other natural habitats. The construction of pipelines and power lines can also damage vegetation, disrupt wildlife movement, and destroy habitats.

Ground disturbance activities can cause ground subsidence or the sinking of the ground surface. Ground subsidence occurs by removing large amounts of soil, extracting subsurface water, or collapsing an underground cavity. When the ground subsides, it can damage buildings and infrastructure and increase the risk of flooding.

Mitigating the Environmental Impacts of Ground Disturbance


There are many ways to mitigate the environmental impacts of ground disturbance activities. The following tips will help you reduce the adverse effects of ground disturbance on soil, vegetation, and ground subsidence.

  • Use the proper tools and equipment for the job. As a result, you can reduce waste and minimize environmental damage.
  • Call before beginning any ground disturbance activities to have utility lines marked if your state requires them. Marked utilities can help you avoid accidents and injuries.
  • Always wear the appropriate safety gear, including goggles, gloves, and a dust mask.
  • Make sure all workers are knowledgeable and capable of performing ground disturbance activities.
  • Use sediment basins and water trucks to control soil erosion.
  • Keep construction traffic to a minimum. Less traffic will help reduce damage to vegetation.
  • Plant new trees and vegetation to replace any lost during ground disturbance activities.
  • Use ground stabilization methods, such as soil nailing to prevent ground subsidence.

By following these tips, you can help reduce the negative environmental impacts of ground disturbance activities. When done correctly, these activities can benefit the community and the environment. However, it is vital to take precautions and use the correct methods to ensure safety and minimize damage.

The Proper Training

It’s common knowledge that ground disturbance activities can be hazardous, especially if not done correctly. Excavation and construction workers need the proper training and experience to avoid accidents. Some of the dangers associated with ground disturbance activities include:

  • Collapsing of trenches
  • Falling into excavations
  • Being struck by heavy equipment
  • Electrocution
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals

To properly train ground disturbance workers and mitigate the many dangers of this type of work, it is essential to:

  • Teach them how to use the proper tools and equipment for the job
  • Show them how to identify utility lines
  • Study and know safety procedures
  • Become familiar with hazard recognition
  • Learn first aid and CPR
  • Excavate and trench safely
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE)

By providing proper training, companies can help ensure that their workers are safe and avoid accidents. In addition, online safety courses are an excellent method to establish working knowledge in various industries that perform ground disturbance activities.

After taking a course, employees should be able to:

  • Identify and mediate ground disturbance hazards
  • Identify ground disturbance scenarios
  • Explain relevant ground disturbance regulations to a type of job
  • Maintain compliance with appropriate permits, licenses, approvals, and agreements
  • Identify and prevent interference with buried/underground facilities
  • Deploy the proper safety precautions related to ground disturbance activities


BIS Safety Software offers a comprehensive online course covering excavation and trenching safety for those who need specific training on ground disturbance activities. The Ground Disturbance Level 2 course cost is $94.95 per person. The Alberta Common Ground Alliance endorses this course.

By taking the necessary precautions and using the correct methods, you can minimize the environmental impacts of ground disturbance activities. Workers need the proper training to avoid accidents and injuries. Companies should provide accessible online safety courses for their employees.


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