The first major goal of an excavation is always the same: locate the utilities. As you know, utility lines can be extremely dangerous if un-detected or ignored. From power outages to gas-caused explosions, the threat of striking a line during a job is real. Fortunately, the excavation industry has a long list of specified and understood best practices to follow beforehand, and as you begin the process of locating the utility lines.
While there are a multitude of rules and details, here are a few important points to keep in mind at the early stage of excavation. This
isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but the tips here do represent some key guidelines.
Although it may seem like a formality in some cases, you should always call 811 before you start digging. The operator at the call center
will notify your local utility companies, and soon they’ll send a locator to identify the presence of lines, cables, and pipes. But remember, this location is approximate. It’s important to get their input, but this doesn’t mean that you can avoid your own duties of detection. Using the locators’ markers can guide you in the right direction, but you should use your own utility locator to detect un-marked lines, or to supplement the prior identification efforts.
Use the right locator
Of course, perhaps the most important step when planning a dig is detecting the underground utility lines. Today, technicians have a few different options when it comes to location identification. From electromagnetic equipment to ground-penetrating radar, they aren’t limited to one way of detection. However, it’s important to remember that, for electromagnetic devices, a good utility locator should be smart, accurate, and able to transmit multiple frequencies. This will greatly increase your chances of line detection.
After confirming the utility locate yourself, it’s crucial to go a step further and visually verify the utility. Soft-digging or “potholing” with a vacuum excavator can safely and efficiently expose an underground utility before a project begins. This greatly reduces risk for damaging a utility during the project which can cause delays and unforeseen expense.
Utility locators paired with vacuum excavation technology makes the job easier and more efficient than ever before, but trained professionals can help avoid danger by applying their experience and common sense.