Nothing brings a construction job to a halt quicker than discovering unexpected water pipes, sewer tile, electrical lines or gas pipes. If you’re lucky, your crew will recognize the line before disrupting it. If you’re not lucky, you may find yourselves on the evening news that day.
There are more than 20 million miles of underground utilities in the United States, many of them just a few feet below the surface. Being surprised by these lines can result in damages, injuries and a loss of power or water to entire communities. It can also significantly delay a project, leaving crews scrambling to identify a buried line and figure out the best way to work around it.
Today, most property owners and utility companies are great at keeping records of their underground lines. That hasn’t always been the standard though, and millions of miles of sewer lines, gas pipes and water lines were installed long ago without thinking about someone encountering them today.
Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to protect your crew and community. A little extra planning before your project begins pays off big time when you think about the cost of repairing a damaged line, the disruptions caused by striking a line and the safety of your crew.
Begin with a Plan
Every good workplace safety strategy starts with a plan. When you take time at the start of your project to consider potential hazards and develop strategies to avoid them, you make it far less likely to encounter them.
Start by gathering all the drawings for the area where you’ll be working, including plans for previous structures, blueprints, drawings for renovations — any info that may provide insight into what’s happening underground. Go over the drawings to reveal inconsistencies.
Next, call 811. Calling 811 before you dig reduces your chances of striking an underground utility to less than 1%. The call only takes a few moments, and in two to three days, utility companies will mark lines in your area. Respecting these lines will keep your crew and community safe.
Use Hydro Excavation Trucks
Using hydro excavation trucks, like TRUVAC’s Paradigm, is another best practice for working around underground utilities. Combining vacuum trucks and high-pressure water, these trucks allow you to remove soil around buried utility lines safely and precisely.
Hydro excavation trucks are cost-effective too. If you’ve ever used hand-digging for a project, you know that it is slow and labor-intensive. It also puts your crew at a greater risk and makes it more likely that you’ll damage an underground utility line. When you choose to use a hydro excavation truck, you save time and reduce the risk of damage and injuries.