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.

How to Prevent Damage to Underground Utilities

There are so many industrial activities taking place on land. Such actions increase the possibilities of damaging underground utilities, especially if those operations involve drilling or excavation. As a result, most power lines, telephone cables, gas lines among others are damaged. Damages to these underground connections can result in dire consequences: disrupting critical public services, increase downtime due to repairs and replacements, and catastrophic accidents or death.

As such, when you need to dig, it is essential that you hire utility locating services with experience, knowledgeable personnel, and top-notch equipment such as using advanced ground penetration radar technology in their ground utility surveillance work.

Below is a list of useful tips of alleviating damage to underground pipes and wires.

Call Before Digging

The Federal Communications Commission issued a toll-free number 811 as a Call-Before-You-Dig contact in the U.S. for locating underground public utility lines.

For locating private utility lines, call our committed representatives. They will listen to the details of your project and relay the word to our field technicians who have the technological know-how and equipment to provide utility locating services. Util-Locate company Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology to precisely determine the depth of any in-ground wire and cables with over 97% accuracy.

Nonetheless, it is important to mention that utility markings of underground connections are only done on areas of utility easements, but not on private property. Therefore, any intrusive or drilling activities around a private landholding are not subject to public locating services.

Contact a private utility locating firm such as the Util-Locate company that uses the latest technology to provide precise information about the position and depth of utility lines.

Implementation of Better Working Practices

Several countries have created regulatory policies to govern underground locations to ensure utility damage prevention and maintain safe working conditions. Such policies detail the need to have an excavation plan, reliable utility locating services, and maintaining safety during excavations.

Improving working practices means that these companies need to utilize the latest technology to detect locations of buried pipes and cables. Purchase user-friendly equipment that features updated technological components. The machine must be highly accurate and sensitive, proof against external interference from power lines, multi-frequency Ground Penetration Radar equipment and emphasizing to employees the importance of proper working practices.

Planning of Safe and Efficient Excavation

Safe on sight excavation is a necessary ingredient for all construction works. Accurate information provided before commencing digging or any other civil operation is an essential contribution to safe excavation. Spiking an underground power cable or fracturing a gas pipeline can cause severe property damage and loss of lives from executions or explosions. Knowing their underground presence and exact position help avoid any possibility of property destruction and loss of lives. Using state-of-the-art Ground Penetrating Radar technology reduces unnecessary costs and major inconveniences while enhancing efficient working and site safety.

Protecting and Maintaining Infrastructure

Our company is the most trusted in underground utility damage prevention. Util-Locate company prides in providing a full suite of utility compliance and underground damage prevention throughout Southern California. Our mission is to deliver high quality, safe, efficient, and innovative solutions that safeguard our clients’ infrastructure and critical assets.

3 Important Tips in Choosing The Best Utility Locator

Before beginning any project – construction, excavation or demolition –  it is recommended to perform utility locating on the site. This is the initial step that has to be executed if you are planning a project that requires excavating.

Hiring professionals to map water pipes, sewer lines, drainage pipes, electrical lines, and internet cables will lead to speeding up the project. You no longer have to dig carefully, slowly or get interrupted. Utility locating ensures safety and will eliminate repair costs hence saving on time and money. These are some of the reasons why utility locating services are required before any project.

Here are some important factors to consider prior to choosing a Utility Locator.

Go for an experienced, licensed professional

When contracting a utility locator, make sure you choose a company that has been in the industry for many years and has the relevant experience and knowledge. An experienced utility locator will provide a comprehensive view of the project’s site by locating, identifying and marking all underground utilities and structures. Also, consider a utility locating company that has handled many different types of projects both large and small.

Working with such a utility locator implies he has a good reputation and can provide references especially on high profile jobs. Do a background check to learn more about the company you are considering to hire. Furthermore, the customer reviews will reveal the experience of real customers in the hands of the utility contractor. Moreover, you will discover any complaints leveled against him and the status of his license, i.e. valid, expired or revoked.

Choose Util-Locate for your utility locating requirements. We are in business for almost 20 years. Our team of professionals are skilled and proficient in finding power lines to garages and exterior structures, electrical cable for lighting, drainage pipes for gardens and gutters, sprinkler lines and invisible fencing, gas lines for grills and fire pits.

Equipment and Technology

Choose a company that uses the most advanced technology and locating techniques to ensure superior quality, accuracy and reliability. As technology is advancing day by day, each utility company is endeavoring to acquire sophisticated electronic equipment and adopting technology-aided utility locating techniques. This equipment helps to interpret the signals easily and offer the most detailed underground mapping solutions as well as produce both 2D and 3D maps, helping you locate the utility lines as they are. The scope of such underground mapping can range from a building construction site to the whole city and even identify utility lines running under highways and buildings.

Thus, make sure that you select a utility location company with advanced tools and methodologies to help you in your development projects.

Reliability

The third factor to be taken into consideration is the reliability of the utility locating company. Look for a company that has a broad reach and are capable of delivering services to nearly any location. Such  company is better positioned to tackle any of your project’s site because they are located locally.

If you’re looking for professional utility locating services, go for Util Locate, where you are guaranteed of the most accurate information without having to disturb existing landscaping.

Public vs Private Utility Locating: What’s The Difference?

Are you planning to excavate or dig on your property? First and foremost, you need to locate where utility lines are. This is crucial to avoid consequential damage to mains lines or even injuring yourself in the process. You will need to hire professionals to do the locating job for you to guarantee accuracy. With many lines that could be buried just outside of your property, a proper assessment is absolutely necessary before you go on with your project. If you want to determine the exact location and path of public utility lines, the professional knowledge of a public utility locator will come in handy.

On private property, a private utility locator will be the best fit to do the job. In general, the difference between public and private utility locating services is that public locating has to do with locating utilities in the public right of way while private locating has to do with locating utilities in private property.

Upon locating, you can dig with confidence knowing that you are not at risk of running into a utility line.

Why it is important to call a private utility locate

Since not all utility lines are covered by an 811 Call Before You Dig service, a private utility locator company can help you with locating, marking and mapping of the utility lines.  Especially those owned by a private owner. By using the latest state-of-the-art technology, our technicians will guarantee you a 97% accuracy rate. At Util-Locate, we use the most advanced tools to tackle any condition on site including unfavorable soil condition, broken or cut lines, corroded pipes, hard-to-detect material such as plastic lines, clay, insulated cast iron, and concrete pipes. Our experience and expertise at locating these type of pipes becomes a great asset for you and serves a great role in damage prevention.

Whether you are planning to build a fence, carry out renovation or undertake a construction project, it is extremely important that you are aware of underground gas lines, sewer lines, fiber optics and water lines that may be passing beneath your construction site. For private utilities, it is a completely different approach compared to public utility. This is because private systems records are not comprehensive and may be missing in some cases. Alternatively, the available records may show a different mapping from the actual installation on the ground. This poses a special challenge that can only be addressed by a professional private utility locator. By using electromagnetic equipment utilities can be accurately located regardless of the material used for the lines.

What you need to do

To be on the safe side of things, you need both private and a public utility locate services. A public utility service is free and can be accessed by calling 811. A public locator will mark any lines that pass near your property such as telephone lines, street lights, traffic lights, cable television lines and any other. However, they are not in a position to mark private lines such as septic systems or buried tanks.

Top 3 Things You Should Know About Utility Locating

For any successful project, utility locating is very essential to avoid costly damages or accidents resulting from digging or excavation. Without proper locating, problems can arise that can be very hard to circumvent. This is why you need a reliable locating service regardless of how small the project is. You cannot rely on line of sight of utility trails. Looking for top-notch utility locating services will ensure that you don’t incidentally come into contact with underground infrastructure. Here are three things you should know about utility locating.

Utility Locating is a damage prevention control prior to excavating/digging.

There are many dangers that exist when you try to dig without proper locating. Underground gas lines pose a safety risk if they are interfered with. Fiber optic lines, water lines, power lines, sewer lines, and other utility lines are very expensive to replace or repair. You don’t want to run into buried lines when digging and cause a major inconvenience. Here at Util-Locate, we give you the confidence to dig knowing that you are safe. We use the latest high-resolution GPR units that guarantee accuracy and helps locate targets in a non-destructive way.

Utility Locating lets you know where your utility services are, which is vital to any pre-design project

Long before you start designing or digging, you can seek utility locating services to establishing the existing mains. This is an essential process that you cannot afford to overlook. No matter the scope of the project, a professional technician will accurately map out the utility locations and their depths. This information will be useful in the placement of structures, trees, foundations, and other necessary demarcations. There are two types of utility lines: private and public utility. For public utilities, you can call 811 for a free locating service. Despite this, only 33% of DIY homeowners call 811 for a free utility locating service. Calling a private utility locating company to mark utility lines is more often the better option. This is because not all utilities are owned publicly and or constitute public utilities. To avoid incidental damage to underground utilities, you will need utility locating done by experienced technicians with the proper tools for the job.

Utility Locating not only saves thousands in damages but lives

We all know how costly and labor intensive it can be to have to replace or repair damaged water lines, sewer lines and other infrastructure. Worse still, there exists the danger of electrocution in the case of cut power lines and dangerous explosions if a gas pipe is interfered with. This can lead to injury and loss of many lives, and cause property destruction worth a lot more money. Our highly trained utility locators are not only focused on damage prevention but also in ensuring no life is lost because of an avoidable mistake.

A single call can save you thousands of dollars and prevent disaster from occurring. We use state-of-the-art technology to improve accuracy and give you peace of mind for all your excavation and digging projects.