12 Best Safety Practices During Utility Location

12 Best Safety Practices During Utility Location

Working outdoors is prone to many safety hazards. This holds especially true for projects like excavation work or utility locating. Digging up the ground where underground lines, cables, and pipes present many dangers, both natural and man-made.

As such, it’s absolutely important to observe the utmost precaution to ensure everyone’s safety and the success of any project. Effective planning involves thorough utility locating, utility infrastructure investigations, damage prevention as well as mitigation measures for issues identified during preliminary surveillance.

Plan Effectively

Every project is unique and will have its own schedule, budget, location, and scope. Depending on these factors, contractors will have to come up with a plan that will please the client while also ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the workers.

But utility locating happens outside where safety hazards abound and circumstances are unpredictable. Therefore, one must prepare contingencies for all possible scenarios that might take place.

Call Before You Dig

An easily avoidable common mistake is accidentally hitting or damaging a utility line. To do so, always call 811 before you dig. This holds true even for utilities projects that may seem simple and straightforward.

811 is the national call number for preventing the unintentional striking of underground utility lines. Pre excavation, call 811 to request help flagging the approximate locations of buried utilities in the area where you plan to excavate.

Create A Utility Map

While you should call 811 before excavation, it’s also good practice to devise a utility map before starting any utility service project. After all, there may be some private utility cables or unknown underground utility lines that 811 is not aware of or their information may be not updated.

To build a utility map, you can use old utility maps as a reference but never use them to guide your excavation. Utility maps need to be updated and creating one right before a new project is the best way to avoid accidents.

Homeowners near your excavation site usually know where their private utility lines are. One can also look for tanks and meters around a property to locate water pipes and electrical or gas lines.

Prevent Cave-Ins

One of the most common accidents experienced by utility locators when doing excavation work or working with underground utilities is collapsed tunnels or cave-ins.

To prevent this, utilities contractors must test the soil composition, as well as design and build structures that will function as support and provide shielding. Testing the soil ahead of time allows them to assess the likelihood of a cave-in whereas support beams can prevent tunnel collapse and shields can protect workers in the event of a cave-in.

Design Walkways and Barriers

No matter how careful excavators are, human error is still a huge risk. Though dropping an object or slipping and falling at home may not result in life-threatening consequences, doing so in a dig site can.

As such, any utility locator or excavator should first set up smooth and non-slippery walkways for workers to securely move about. They must also erect sturdy barriers around the area to prevent people from falling into pits.

Use the Proper Equipment

Excavation projects are no joke. Even with the most experienced utilities workers, most projects can’t be accomplished without the necessary tools.

If you’re a homeowner digging for a one-time project, investing in expensive equipment can be wasteful. Instead, hiring an experienced utility locator who already has such equipment and is experienced in using them to render services is going to be safer and more cost-effective.

These excavators are trained to use equipment such as a ground penetrating radar to ensure survey markings are all recorded accurately.

Prepare Respirators

Dust and dirt are constantly in the air during excavations, which can in turn be hazardous to people’s health. Depending on the utility request, some teams even dig deep enough into the ground that oxygen levels begin to drop. Such lack of oxygen can cause lightheadedness, fatigue, and even fainting.

Before any light digging, workers must wear proper masks. If the project requires excavators to dig deep, workers need respirators or similar devices to help them breathe properly while working. This prevents them from collapsing or feeling sick; it will also help them avoid developing respiratory diseases due to work.

Bring Ear Plugs or Ear Muffs

During excavations, workers are surrounded by noisy equipment. Though this is part of the job, anyone exposed to high levels of noise for prolonged periods can risk ear damage and hearing loss.

Before starting any project, always conduct a noise assessment. If noise levels reach 85 dBA as an 8-hour TWA or more, workers must wear protective PPE like ear plugs or ear muffs.

Educate Workers

When digging, workers use heavy-duty dangerous equipment. Such devices need proper handling; otherwise, they can cause severe injuries while on the job. This is why educating workers is incredibly important. Moreover, workers must also be educated on how to properly use protective gear to ensure their safeties.

As a homeowner or excavation or construction company, it pays to train workers or work with contractors with proper training.

Supervise At All Times

An excavation project can’t just be done willy-nilly. There must be an experienced worksite supervisor who can govern the workers and make sure they all abide by safety protocols and follow the proper operational procedures.

Any compromises in this regard can easily lead to accidents and disaster so insisting on having someone capable at the helm of a project is a non-negotiable.

Put Signs, Reminders, and Warnings

Anyone is bound to forget a thing or two after they’ve been working for hours and days. This is why putting up a sufficient number of signs around the digging area can make a huge difference in disaster prevention.

Though it’s advised to stay at least 18 inches away from a marked underground utility, it’s highly encouraged to dig as far as you can because the mapping is not always accurate. For example, pipes can move due to changes in ground temperature over time.

To account for this reach, make sure to set up the appropriate reminders or warnings before you dig. Doing so in danger zones can boost alertness and vigilance minimizing the chances of accidents. This is also helpful for bystanders and utility owners who may want to help direct the flow of traffic around the utilities site.

Hire Professional Utility Locators

Whether you’re digging to install new underground utilities or doing some landscaping, you always want to observe the safety measures listed above to help protect yourself and everyone else around your worksite.

Accidentally hitting underground utilities can not only cause inconveniences such as water shortage or power interruption, it can also cause fire, serious injury, and possibly even death to the workers involved.

If you’re a property owner and have no experience with utility locating or digging in a utility site, you may not know what to do if you accidentally hit a gas line or a water pipe. Therefore, it’s highly advisable that you leave the job to utility companies or hire professionals who render utility locating services.

Our team is made up of professionals who have been in the utilities industry for years, and we meet all our requests with the utmost care. You can leave your private utility locating and mapping needs to us, so call Util-Locate, your trusted utility locator partner!

Vacuum Excavation Service for a Precise Trenching

Vacuum Excavation Service

Compared with most excavation methods used on construction sites, vacuum excavation is still a fairly new tool used for easy utility potholing and accurate excavation. Instead of manual tools or unwieldy equipment, vacuum excavators use a hydro or air jet to gently blow pressurized water or air into the ground to clear away earth. This process is more accurate than other methods and there is little risk of damaging utility lines.

Keep reading to better understand how Vacuum excavation works. This article will explain the process, necessary safety measures, and the many benefits of choosing vacuum excavation over manual digging or backhoes.

What is Vacuum Excavation?

In recent years, vacuum excavation has become the go-to option on construction sites for efficient and thorough excavation. Excavation is an important part of most construction projects because it allows you to understand what is going on underneath the earth. That means being aware of all utility lines, like water or gas, as well as any underground structures that might be in place.

Some methods of excavation, like backhoes, are too cumbersome to carefully excavate the land without risking damage to these utility lines. Such damage can be extremely expensive to repair and if the construction site is in an urban area, the damage could affect the surrounding area. This could lead to extensive fines for affecting the community in an adverse way, such as shutting off the power at a hospital or school.

Understanding the full extent of the risks involved in utility potholing should make it obvious why vacuum excavation is such a good option.

Read More: What You Need to Know About Potholing For Utilities

Vacuum excavation technology allows a professional team to gently remove earth from the construction site to reveal a completely accurate image of where the utility lines are located without any risk involved. Not only is the process effective, but a well-trained team can excavate the site quickly without sacrificing thoroughness.

Vacuum excavation can handle nearly all types of terrain: clay, dirt, rough and rocky soil are no match for this equipment. Whereas other forms of excavation can struggle to carefully remove rocky terrain, the water or air pressure from vacuum excavators remains an effective and quick option.

While hydro and air jets work in very similar ways, some will opt for air jets because the earth that is excavated can be reused at a later time. This is not possible with the earth that is cleared using water, so it is best to consult with your team before deciding which type of vacuum excavator to use.

utility potholing

Safety Measures

As with all tools and machinery on construction sites, vacuum excavation should only be carried out by a highly trained individual or team.

The most cost-effective option is to hire a vacuum excavation specialist who can complete the work with ease. Renting the equipment and training someone on site is not only more expensive but can also cause delays for the construction project or cause damage to the machinery or construction site.

To prevent these unnecessary expenses, opt for a team like that at Util-Locate who have years of experience and can understand the needs and scope of your project. 

Benefits of Choosing Vacuum Excavation

To better understand the benefits of vacuum excavation, you should consider the downsides of its alternatives: backhoes and hand excavation.

As mentioned above, backhoes are an unwieldy piece of construction machinery, which lack the finesse of a vacuum excavator. While the job might get done quickly, utility lines could be struck or ruptured in the process. We already know that this can result in fines, but you could also have to push back the deadline of the project due to the need for lengthy repairs before construction work can be continued.

Smaller sites have previously relied on excavation being carried out by hand with the use of shovels or trowels. While there is certainly less risk of rupturing a utility line, this method is very time consuming and will result in overworked and exhausted workers.

Due to the amount of time this form of excavation takes, it is not as cost-effective as you might assume. You might save money on equipment, but this is canceled out by how long the process takes and the number of workers it will require.

Read More: Vacuum Excavation vs. Traditional Excavation Techniques

You might also have heard of RADAR technology, which uses radio waves to locate utility lines. While this might seem like a great option because it limits the need for physical excavation, it is not 100% accurate. This discrepancy in accuracy means utility line ruptures can still occur. If you use RADAR, it should be used alongside a vacuum excavator. Doing so will maximize accuracy while limiting the area you have to excavate.

So, it is easy to see why vacuum excavation for utility locating and potholing is such a good option. Not only will it preserve the integrity of the construction site, but you will save money and time.

To conclude, it is essential for the safety and success of your construction project to choose an excavation method that is both accurate and efficient. Vacuum excavation is proven to be the most accurate method for construction site excavation and a professional team will ensure that the work is carried out according to your team’s needs.

Avoid Excavation Hazards and Utility Strikes, Call the Potholing Experts

why utility potholing is essential

It is well known that construction sites are inherently dangerous and there are a lot of risks that go along with excavating earth. Although it is tempting to choose the cheapest or least time-consuming option to get the job done, such choices can lead to expensive disasters down the line. Utility potholing uses vacuum excavation technology in order to carefully and efficiently locate all underground utility lines without damaging them.

Utility potholing is an excellent option for most construction projects and will likely save you and your crew both time and money. Using a professional team will ensure that your construction site is excavated properly and as quickly as possible. While potholing is an investment, it will ensure that you avoid extensive damage and expensive repairs or fines.

Keep reading to learn how vacuum excavation can help your construction project run smoothly without the risk of utility strikes.

Other Tools Don’t Cut It

When you compare potholing to the other tools available, it becomes quickly obvious that professional potholing is the best choice.

Those with smaller construction sites often think that excavating the land by hand is the best option because it is so inexpensive. However, digging with hand tools like shovels and trowels requires grueling physical labor. Depending on the site, it can also take many days to complete. The contractor might want the work completed by a certain deadline and it just isn’t possible to know exactly how long excavating by hand will take.

While hand tools might not cause damage to utility lines, it isn’t recommended that you use this time-intensive and exhausting method.

Read More: What You Need to Know About Potholing for Utilities

Meanwhile, you might also consider renting a backhoe because they are generally considered an affordable and efficient method. However, it is incredibly difficult to use finesse with a backhoe, which means there is a much greater chance of striking a utility line. This is a fine option if you are certain there are no live utility lines under the land but should be avoided otherwise.

If you do opt for a backhoe, remember to employ an experienced spotter who will help guide the equipment and avoid utility lines. Even so, the risk to utility lines is far greater than it would be with vacuum excavation.

How Potholing Works

Potholing works to carefully excavate a construction site through the use of air or water pressure.

Air or water is gently, but firmly, push through the earth so that the locations of utility lines can be discovered without physically touching them. Even better, the use of an air jet allows the earth to be stored and reused at a later time in the construction process. While this cannot be done with a hydro jet, both are great options for keeping your construction site safe.

Potholing is an effective method that involves clearing the earth away from utility lines. It is also time-efficient and cost-effective. When used properly, vacuum excavation is the best method available for any construction project.

Safety Precautions

As with any construction equipment or machinery, safety measures must be taken to ensure the well-being of your crew.

You will still need to plan ahead of time to fully understand how to vacuum excavate the property. For instance, you should call all relevant third parties who have knowledge of the construction site. These third parties may have information concerning utility lines, which will assist you during the excavation.

It is always safer to choose a professional, experienced team. These professionals understand the delicate excavation process and will be much faster and more skilled than an untrained worker.

A professional team will also understand the importance of inspecting the area beforehand. This involves creating a small hole through which the professional can explore the underground area. RADAR or digital technology doesn’t compare to visual verification of what is underground. Damage to underground utilities can result in unexpected expenses from repairs or fines.

Usually, these fines occur if the damage disrupts access to utilities for those living and working in the surrounding area. It is important to respect the local community and do everything possible to ensure the construction is safe and takes necessary precautions.

Read More: Potholing Utilities for A Cost-Efficient and Safer Excavation

When in Doubt, Seek Help

If you are in doubt about how to excavate your construction site, it is advised that you choose potholing. Vacuum excavation is an advanced technique that, when carried out by an expert, is both safe and efficient.

By opting for potholing, you avoid the risk of striking a utility line, which could severely impact the overall success of the construction project.

Not only will a professional team be able to understand the needs of your project, but they will carry out the work without putting workers’ health and well-being at risk, as well as protecting the land itself. See private utility locating companies near me.

Utility Potholing & Vacuum Excavation for Your Underground Work

utility potholing services

The value of precision in any construction project is hard to overstate. If the technology age has taught us anything, it is the value of miniaturization, precise tolerances, and optimizing the process of building a solid foundation for future improvement.

The high-tech environment comes with its share of challenges, however. Beneath our feet is a maze of electrical connections, gas lines, sewer, and water lines and data cables. It seems every building has its own collection of interfaces to city and county facilities. Things are only going to get more complex as time goes on. Construction crews, contractors, and even utility workers can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to surveying a site for repairs, new construction, or simple maintenance checks.

The solution is to find a company with the experience and the tools to make vacuum excavation and utility potholing simple, quick and effective.

utility potholing

Keeping It Simple

Vacuum excavation services relies on what would seem to be the simplest of principles. Dirt and debris are mixed with water, liquified, and extracted with a high-powered vacuum. It is what regulators call a “non-destructive” process. This new and effective means of removing dirt and rocks from around sensitive underground facilities is now required by some states when crews are digging near safe zones.

Once the underground work is complete, the dirt is replaced by merely reversing the pressure. In the interim, the liquified material is stored in a tank on site. As an added bonus, since the material is already liquified, when it is replaced it “sets” very much like cement. There is often little evidence any digging ever took place. See more about vacuum digging.

Safety First

Imagine you are building on a site with pre-installed utilities. You have a backhoe in operation. This means digging at the site without sufficient information or worse, outdated information about what kinds of utility lines are present and where they are located. The backhoe blade strikes a gas line. There is a spark.

This is the kind of situation vacuum excavation, and potholing is meant to prevent. It is necessary to know the precise whereabouts of utility lines. It is also vital to understand the nature of those lines and what they might present in terms of hazards. Safety is always of utmost concern at a job site. The crews are at risk, and so is utility service to the surrounding neighborhoods and region.

Digging precisely and with the right tools and process allows you to know with specificity before you engage in large-scale digging or construction. Making the wrong decision or being in too big a hurry carries with it risks no construction crew should have to face.

The Right Team

It is in every stakeholder’s best interest to have experts in their field doing the work they were trained to do. This is why you need an experienced and knowledgeable team at your construction site to find the utility lines before your crew accidentally damages them. It is better and safer for everyone involved, and in the long run, it will save you time and money.

How to Reduce Trenching and Excavation Safety Hazards

Potholin Vacuum Excavation

The work involved in exposing underground utilities can be intricate in nature. There is a lack of vision, due to the infrastructure being underneath the ground, meaning that accurately locating the target piping or cabling is difficult. This problem makes it incredibly important to gather as much intelligence as you can on the area in which you are working.

Finding underground schematics for the area is one of the first things that should be done when preparing to start work on a new site. The responsible contracting company that installed the infrastructure will have created detailing documentation for workers to use when performing repairs on the piping and cabling laid beneath the ground. You can use this information to speed along your utility potholing process. Read more about potholing construction.

utility potholing

Trenching for Repairs

Trenching is something that can be avoided by using vacuum excavation contractors. However, in some instances, it may be necessary to dig a trench to access the subsurface infrastructure. The proper definition of a trench, defined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, is a narrow excavation beneath the ground that is deeper than it is wide while being no wider than 15 feet.

It is crucial to have a competent person perform a survey of the area, aiming to find out the types of soil and rocks in the ground, as well as inspecting your protective systems and conducting regular site inspections. This person will be required by law to inspect trenches at the start of each shift, as well as following a rainstorm.

It is essential to decipher the type of ground materials you are working with, as this can affect the precautions you need to take before starting work. Some important factors that should be taken into account include the soil classification, water content of the soil, use of heavy digging equipment, depth of cut and other changes which can be caused by weather and climate. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, or OSHA website, there is a range of safety precautions that need to be taken when trenching. The most common threat when trenching is the risk of collapse, which can result from the surrounding ground materials being too weak to hold up machinery and other items.

Generally, unless the excavation is performed in entirely solid rock, you will need to have a trench protection system in place. The first is called Sloping, which involves cutting the trench wall back at an inclined angle to ensure that debris does not fall into the trench. The second method is called Shoring and requires more work, such as the installation of support, items such as an aluminum hydraulic to prevent soil movement and cave-ins. The third and final method is Shielding, which protects workers by using trench boxes or other types of support that avoid soil cave-ins.

Overall, trenching and excavation are some of the most hazardous construction operations that you can undertake. This danger is why it is critical to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of workers on-site.

Knowing What’s Buried Underneath Before Excavation

Excavation Site

Before beginning an excavation project, it is essential to know the underground utilities found within that region. This will help you avoid circumstances that will slow or stall your projects such as court orders due to interference with underground utilities. This is why you need to hire qualified private locator services to help you identify locations underground infrastructure.

We have compiled this article, to help you understand what underground utilities locating services entail, its benefits and the best company to hire for this service. Let us get started.

Services offered by private locators

If you are beginning an excavation project in an area, here are some services you will get when you hire our private utility locating services:

  • Detection of water pipes and sewer channels in the region. Util-Locate Company will guide you on the specific locations of water lines and sewer channels to avoid bursting these important underground utilities which can add on to your operational costs.
  • Location of underground telecommunication gadgets. Using our cable locating services, we will identify telecommunication cables, and other lines found underground in the area you want to develop.
  • Identification of underground tanks, gas, and electric lines, Util-Locate Company will mark all the electric lines in the region. It will also detect the gas supply channels to prevent gas leaks which can cause disasters such as fires and blasts.

Along with these services, Util-Locate also applies the latest technology such as the high-resolution GPR in finding untraceable storm lines, sewers, and conduits.

Benefits of hiring a private locator

  • Public locators will locate only public utilities.

Simply said, if you privately own a utility, then State Locators are not viable to help you with locating services. This is why you need to hire a private locator company which will respond to your needs as quickly as possible.

  • Utility locating helps save lives and avoid damage to property. 

The cost of repairing damages is always high, and you know how painful it is to pay for something you never budgeted for because of a mistake. Damages can occur when you temper with infrastructures such as water and sewer lines.

Electrocution and possibly death can occur when you hit underground power lines. Gas explosions can occur when gas pipes are accidentally hit. All these can result in injuries and destruction of property which would cost a lot of money.

Save yourself these unnecessary troubles by hiring underground utilities locating services.

  • Utility Locating services helps save on operational costs

When handling a big project, chances are that saving money is one of your top priorities. Operational costs will surge if you end up damaging underground utilities such as sewer lines and water pipes. These unnecessary costs can be avoided by hiring a private locator to check the specific locations of these underground utilities.

Looking to find a private locator company that will help you identify the underground utilities at your excavation site? Call Util-Locate for the best locating services!