Precautionary steps necessary for precise, safe locating

With the growing utility demands of today’s world comes an ever-expanding network of infrastructure pathways necessary to support these services. Everything from sewer and water to natural gas and telecommunications requires a method of transport to supply homes and businesses with these needs; typically, the most common route selected is to go underground. However, before construction or renovation can begin, modern locating technology must be used to help detect the various cables, pipes and wires running below the streets.

Start with One Call

Before any kind of digging or trenching work can begin, contractors must consider the necessary safety precautions to help minimize risks on the jobsite. Puncturing a line could lead to damage to equipment and buildings, and have an even more serious impact on workers. The first step in safe locating is contacting your local 811 or One Call office — who will send a representative that will examine the area and mark existing utility lines.

Because contractors are responsible for utility strikes, most contractors must take additional steps to ensure effective and safe locating of utility lines.

Cody Mecham, regional sales manager at McLaughlin, knows underground conditions are crowded and will continue to become more congested as companies upgrade and build new lines.

“When a replacement utility is added, the facility owner isn’t always ensuring the removal of the previous utility,” he says. “So, the contractor has no way of knowing whether it’s active or abandoned.”

Electromagnetic locators offer additional peace of mind

To help navigate the congested underground, Mecham recommends that contractors to use their own utility locators for improved accuracy and insurance.

“Locating is similar to tuning in to your favorite radio station,” says Mecham. “When signals are transmitted to various utilities, the locator is designed to pick up each respective signal.”

The locators are able to recognize frequencies and determine the location of underground utilities. Passive sweeping — sweeping the area with a receiver can detect utilities radiating and reradiated frequencies — that can further clarify the location of lines.

 

Visual cues

Along with the use of locators, a number of visual cues can be employed to help a contractor discern the location of underground lines even before digging.

“Items such as telephone pedestals, power transformers, gas meters and water valves all serve as visual indicators,” says Mecham. “They are surface clues of the potential buried dangers of which crews should should be aware.”

When beginning a dig, determining the depth and direction of lines is crucial to safety.

“A common mistake is the failure to consider the depth estimation when exposing a line,” says Mecham. “At times a utility will be deeper than expected, resulting in cross trenching – which is when crews will not excavate deeper but dig left and right in attempt to locate the utility.

Potholing to expose lines prior to full excavation, is recommended to get a definitive location of the utilities. Vacuum excavation is the preferred way because it is quick and minimizes disturbance to the surrounding area.

Mecham says there is no question that locators are definitely worth the investment.

“Using a locator saves time, and that equates to money saved,” says Mecham. “It’s a more efficient method of exposing utilities, which minimizes excess digging and allows crews to be more productive and profitable.”

For 90 years, McLaughlin has been actively involved in the drilling tool industry. During that time McLaughlin has developed a reputation for designing and building dependable, low maintenance trenchless construction equipment. McLaughlin takes pride in providing solutions for OEMs and the underground industry.

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