Safe Digging Practices: How to Determine Buried Utility Assets

Working on or around underground utilities can be fatal, and even if you take precautions, damages are sometimes inevitable. Understanding and use of safe digging practices are essential to prevent or minimize damaging these underground utilities.

This article emphasizes the precautions and safe digging practices you should employ while determining buried utility assets to avoid damages, ensure the safety of the workers as well as people around the working site.

Use a utility locator

Whether you are dealing big or small projects, it is crucial to use a reliable underground utility locator anytime you are preparing to dig underground assets. Never assume the presence of utility lines or think their depth remains the same. Sometimes the utility lines are not where they seem to be through a range of sight, and their depth can change over time due to factors like erosion, uneven surfaces or previous projects.

The services of professionals in underground utilities help in identifying the utility lines, white line them and determine how deep the utility assets are. The use of professional services ensures the accuracy and gives confidence of excavation with less exposure to dangers.

Use caution after the digging sites are flagged

After the identification of the correct location of the utility, taking precautions is necessary to avoid damages of assets. Don’t assume that the marked utility line is the only one there. You need to dig about four feet away from either side of the marked utility lines, and in case you need to dig closer or cross the flags or markings, then you need to use hand tools to expose the buried assets. Use of hand tools determines the exact location, exposes the facilities and it is safer to avoid damaging the underground facility.

Call if your lines become unclear on your digging site

Circumstances like bad weather and work disturbance can cause your markings to become incorrect, obscured, miss or become obliterated. In such cases, don’t go off your memory on where the lines were. Instead, you should contact underground utility locating services which will help in identifying the buried lines and give you the exact location and depth of your utility.

Do not remove paint marks or flags until you complete your work

Presence of paint markings and banners on your site means that the excavation or digging work is still ongoing. Removal of the flags before the work completion can lead to confusion on the different type of utilities which can eventually cause fatal accidents and damages to assets.

Support and protect utility assets when exposed

Once you reach the facility during your digging process, ensure safe backfilling to prevent damages on the facility and maintain their coating. Provision of support beneath further prevents sagging and collapse of the facilities.

The Takeaway

Anytime you plan to dig into the ground, the chances of hitting the utility pipes and wires are high. Cutting or damaging utility wires and pipes is not only costly but also extremely dangerous as they can result in explosions, electrocutions and sometimes fires. To prevent such occurrences, safe digging practices and use of underground utility locator services is very important they will ensure your safety during digging.

For more information about safe digging practices and for utility location, contact Util-Locate. Our company has been in the service of providing underground utility locating since 2001.

Why Use GPR for Utility Locating

In the business of underground utility locating services, it is critical that you know what exactly lies beneath the surface at a site such as pipes and conduits. The replacement and rerouting of underground infrastructure can be time-consuming, often very costly and is a disturbance to the environment. It is thus important to utilize tools that would provide accurate assessments and efficiently save on time, resources, and space.

The tools used for locating utilities are quite diverse, but most are met with multiple limitations. One method commonly used is the energizing of cables and metals with electric current and then with the help of a magnetic-field sensor, detect the current. However, there are instances where the metallic object is broken, or there is a presence of non-metallic elements, which makes detection of current impossible or difficult.

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is an underground utility locator that uses radio waves to locate sub-surface structures and objects without causing any damages. The radio waves/signals/frequencies will bounce off the object it comes to contact with and is received back at the antenna. From the antenna, they are transmitted by wire to a computer for processing, analysis, and display on the computer screen.

GPR is used in materials like concrete, asphalt, soil and rock, water, plastic, metal and wood. It can also detect non-objects such as voids (hollow cavities). As such, under favorable conditions, GPR can virtually see anything.

If you are seeking for underground utility locating services, there are multiple reasons why GPR is a good fit. The end goal is to save as much time, resources, and space while getting accurate assessments.

Benefits of GPR

Provides accurate location and detection.

GPR is one underground utility locator that can trace both metallic and non-metallic utilities. These elements may include water, gas pipes, polythene, and even fiber-optic cables, which other methods find difficult or impossible to detect. It can also provide detection of pipe leakages and voids although, this will require further processing of the data.

The underground utility locator will also give you exact locations of these objects inclusive of their depths. More so, it will perform this function without having prior knowledge of the utility’s respective location. It becomes a significant advantage when dealing with an area with complete unknowns.

Provides non-destructive examination.

The GPR underground utility locator uses either magnetic or electromagnetic principles to identify and map out the location of underground utilities. Its approach enables it to reinforce steel within concrete and voids without damaging surrounding surfaces and structures. It also enables non-intrusive inspection of a site, therefore preserving the structure and preventing project downtime.

It is cost effective.

Utilizing GPR underground utility locating services before performing directional drilling will save you from causing damage to existing utilities, which promotes cost-effective installations. It will minimize or eliminate; setbacks from structure damages, expensive job downtime, worker injury, or shutdown of a facility for a severed utility line.

It is user-friendly.

Originally, GPR was considered a major capital investment, dedicated only to experts and skilled operators. The underground utility locator required expertise to operate owing to its complexity and its need for hands-on data processing. However, with technological advancements and innovation, the new GPR equipment is of uncomplicated electronic designs with user-friendly interfaces that do not require complex filter-settings.

Other benefits to using GPR for underground utility locating services include:

  • Early tracing of warning signs and,
  • Fast, reliable diagnosis of problems.

Util-Locate has been a trusted provider of Ground Penetrating Radar services in California. We are qualified to do even the most challenging job. Let us know how we can help.