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Smartshore saves lives.

On 18 August 2016
Smartshore saves lives.Smartshore saves lives.Smartshore saves lives.
Smartshore, the inflatable shield for the protection of your crews at job sites.


In 2010, a major water utility in France approached Pronal with a request to develop a solution for shoring of small excavations.

The Idea ? Rapid installation of a shoring system to protect workers during maintenance work on water and sewer lines.

In order to meet the technical requirements as well as the established standards for trench safety, Pronal consulted with OPPBTP.

This agency for the Protection of Buildings and Public Works contributed in a major way to the development of the innovative system Smartshore.

« With the first inflatable trench shoring on the market, we paid attention to existing standards for other types of trench shoring systems during each stage of development.

This new technology does not meet all the requirements and functions of conventional shoring methods. Nevertheless, it achieves sufficient resistance to allow personnel to safely exit an excavation in case of collapse » M. GOULVESTRE OPPBTP

Our top priority when developing this system was ease of installation, ease of handling, and significant reduction in accidents at job sites. The successful cooperation between OPPBTP and Pronal led to mobilizing of enterprises involved in development of accident prevention systems at construction sites with the help of Smartshore.

The OPPBTP designated Smartshore by Pronal as the first “pneumatic system for the protection of excavations”.

In the mean time in 2014, the energy company ENGIE and OPPBTP teamed up to develop a guideline for the selection of protective systems. It would have been very interesting to include the Smartshore system and point out its advantages :

  • Easy to transport due to the light weight of the cushions
  • Rapid deployment – installed in less than 20 minutes
  • High impact resistance

However, it lacked a number of technical characteristics when compared to conventional shoring systems that are based on European standard and have the advantage of having been used successfully for many years. The combined Know-How and experience in excavations and the protective systems (PRONAL/ENGIE/OPPBTP) led to additional technical improvements of the Smartshore :

  • New performance data were developed through testing, in particular the resistance ratings at different pressures and the tear resistance of handling straps.
  • Updating of technical documentation Smartshore : product description, installation instructions, test reports, evaluation of soil conditions.
  • The instruction manual has been updated with significant changes including the increase in inflation pressure, the required installation of the struts, as well as the maintenance and storage requirements.

This cooperation resulted in greater knowledge and experience and resulted in a final product that meets the real life requirements for safety and practicality. Based on this, all of the requirements for inclusion in above mentioned guidelines have been met.


Today, the Smartshore is being used on numerous construction sites and helps to prevent accidents caused by trench collapses.



We were working at a job site where a leak in a sewer pipe was reported. After digging the hole, we installed the inflatable shields secured by struts supplied by Pronal. Shortly before finishing the job, a crack in the trench wall occurred, most likely caused by soil being saturated by the water leak.

The trench wall collapsed while my coworker was still in the hole. Luckily the Smartshore was holding back about 1 m3 of soil. My coworker had plenty of time to exit the hole safely. Without the Smartshore he would have been buried by the collapsed soil !

In the past we were using aluminum trench boxes or plywood bulkheads which could be installed quickly. However, these were difficult to transport and required a small backhoe to assist with the installation. After we discovered the Smartshore (inflatable trench shield from Pronal), we started to use this system at most of our jobsites.

The installation is so quick and simple that we don’t give it a second thought whether we should secure the excavation or not.We are using it regularly at jobs as described above as well as when doing drinking water pipe connections.We have several kits now and just received another for one of our new crews.We highly recommend this system to anyone doing this type of work !

Philippe Crouzet, SAUR


Industry info

“The amended decree dated January 8, 1965, mandates that every excavation with vertical walls must be secured whenever the depth is greater than 1.3 m and the width smaller or equal to 2/3 of the depth. Construction firms have long underestimated the potential dangers of trench collapses. Thanks to education and demonstrations of the systems, it is now a much more common practice to secure the excavations in order to protect the working crews. “They are realizing that the trench shields must be part of standard equipment”, says Marc Cayron, CEO of PCA. “Each year there are fatal accidents in excavationssays Laurent Vasseux, manager of FET-Laser Shield. “Local authorities are already requiring soil inspection prior to beginning the works. These inspections are necessary in order to determine the type of protection system to be used. “We are checking for the type of soil, depth of the excavation, nearby obstacles, proximity of vibration sources, hydrology, as well as vibrations caused by nearby traffic.”

The protective systems have been designed based on industry requirements. “The excavations are increasingly full of different utility lines and the crews are always looking for flexible solutions”, says Laurent Vasseux. While PCA is only offering their system for purchase, the FET-Laser Shield also offers the equipment for rent. “Most companies are reluctant to invest a lot of money into safety equipment because of the high cost and there are almost always unpleasant surprises at job sites” says the CEO. New systems have been developed as a response to this fact. In this case it was the company Pronal that developed an inflatable trench shield based on specific requirements by a water authority. “Smartshore is a light weight, reliable and robust protective system” says Eric Fradet, technical director. “Two inflatable shields made of reinforced rubber coated fabric with special properties replace the traditional trench protection equipment. With the weight of only 13 kg each, only two people can manually install the system”. The manufacturer is working on further optimizing the installation methods. “We can still develop simpler and quicker solutions for protection of excavations”, says Lawrence Vasseux.

Charlotte Malbranque - La vie des réseaux


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