You don’t become a successful contractor without knowledge of utilities. As you know, digging on a job site requires an understanding of how they work, as well as

DSC_0016their potential hazards.

Emergencies aren’t common, but they do happen. A reliable utility locator can help you avoid surprises, but the bottom line is you should be ready to act in case of accidental exposure to natural gas or power lines.

As a refresher, here’s a checklist of actions if you or someone on your site hits a utility line while digging.

Clear the area

The first moments after you accidentally hit a line underground are perhaps the scariest. Even if you know what kind of line you hit, you’re not always fully aware of the impact. Your impulse may be to stand by, trying to figure out your next move. However, this actually makes you more vulnerable.

The best bet is to get out of the way. Clear your crew away from the scene of the mishap and assess the problem from afar.

Keep your distance

If someone disrupted an electrical line, it’s important to remember to stay away from him. He may be charged with electricity, which could transfer upon contact. Even if he or appears to be unharmed, avoid touching at all costs. The same goes for any vehicles or structures he might’ve been in contact with.

Additionally, don’t assume the power line was de-energized. Typically it is re-charged several times in a matter of seconds after an accident, and can continue to be a threat.

Be mindful of substances

After you’ve cleared the area, pay attention to the accident site. Any resulting electrical fires will be obvious, but also take note of natural gas. The smell may not be apparent at first, but gas is certainly deadly. If you do smell it, make sure to call 9-1-1. It poses a threat not just to you, but to any other nearby structures that may also be affected by the broken line.

Contact the utility company

When you’ve assessed the problem and taken all of your urgent steps, you should contact the utility company who was responsible for the line. In the pre-work stage, you most likely surveyed the area and made note of the companies who had worked there before you. Make sure you let them know about the accident. They may be able to provide you with helpful information.

Don’t be a hero

By trade, contractors have to be handy and a bit courageous. In the event of a problem on site, you may be inclined to step in and fix it yourself – don’t. This may exacerbate the issue. As stated, anything that was electrically charged should be avoided at all costs. Similarly, gas lines are incredibly volatile. Don’t try to repair them on your own under any circumstances.

No sparks

As you know, fire mixes with gas to disastrous results. In the event of a gas leak, make an emergency call and wait for the proper response from the authorities. But make that call from far away. Even sparks from a cell phone can impact the gas in the air. Likewise, something as subtle as static electricity can cause an explosion. Just stay away.

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