Utility locating is one of the most important steps in any excavation. It represents the pre-work that determines everything excavators need to know about the future job site. Without it,
digging would be extremely dangerous, as it puts vulnerable underground utility lines at risk. Because of its importance, identifying utility lines has a long list of best practices that every locator needs to know.
Below are just some of the most relevant industry standards for location, many of which are also recommended by the National Utility Locating Contractors Association (NULCA).
You can’t discuss best practices without mentioning 811. It many ways it initiates the job. Excavation companies simply call the national phone number, inform the operator about where they intend to dig, and the information is then routed to your local one-call center. Within a couple days, utility companies send technicians out to mark their underground lines on the site.
Consult all records
Although utility companies do some of the location work for excavators, it’s important to supplement their identifications, as well as look for any additional lines or cables. Excavating companies should always consult blueprints for the job site, construction maps, alignment sheets and just about any other document that may reveal previously undetected underground lines. Maintaining safety is extremely important.
As with any type of important job, communication between various parties during the utility location process should be upheld at all times. Excavators need to share the information obtained from one-call centers with facility or job site owners. It’s also recommended that utility locators establish a clear and consistent process of communication between all relevant parties.
Document all work
Paperwork is no one’s favorite pastime, but when it concerns the safety of excavators and the public at large, it’s an important part of the utility locating process. Technicians should always document their work after they complete a locate request. This will help inform and facilitate the flow of communication, as well as guide the geography of the excavation.
Use a quality locator
When it comes to locating utility lines, there are a variety of options. The conditions of the particular job site may dictate the type of locator to be used. Additionally, the quality of equipment varies within each category of locator. To ensure that you’re using the most effective method of detection while promoting safety, always choose a reliable utility locator, such as McLaughlin’s Verifier G2. The best equipment should be easy to use, reduce noise, and achieve accuracy in direct connection, clamping, inductive and passive modes.
Identify potential hazards
Of course, once lines are located, it’s imperative that locate technicians use temporary markings to identify them. Again, safety should be the top concern, and without the proper signs, excavators risk striking underground gas, electric, or telecom lines once they start digging. Typical markings may include stakes, flags or signs. Make sure you note these identifiers in your documentation as well.