Every contractor knows that safety takes top priority on a job site. The reality is that the potential for destructive mistakes is fairly high. While you might be wary of a newly trained yet inexperienced employee, seasoned pros can get caught off guard by a potential hazard in today’s congested infrastructure. Of course, with all of the industry’s thorough safety procedures in place, the chance of a mistake actually occurring is reassuringly low. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be extremely careful throughout all stages of a job. Even neglecting details while planning the job can lead to danger later on. In addition to the fallout from a mistake, overlooking obvious warning signs can be embarrassing, and even damage your professional credibility.

To avoid any potential mistakes at your next job site, here are some signs that everyone should heed.

Smell of gas

The smell of gas should be a warning sign in just about any setting. Whether you’re a homeowner or an excavator, gas is not to be taken lightly. If you’re working on a site and you catch its unmistakable scent, stop what you’re doing immediately. Open gas lines can be incredibly dangerous, especially in the presence of other electrical equipment or any equipment that would create a spark, such as an excavator bucket scraping the asphalt. If you’re not sure where the smell is coming from, don’t try to poke around in an attempt to locate it. Clear the job site and call the gas company, and any other relevant utility companies that may have knowledge of the underground lines at the site. Unfortunately you’ll have to wait until the problem is fixed, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Unidentified utility lines

Usually most lines have been identified before the actual project begins. Utility companies should mark the presence of lines with colored flags (after being notified by 811). Make sure employees are familiar with the color coding of the flags.

Meanwhile, you probably made your own markings by using a utility locator. However, even with these precautions, it’s not impossible to find an unmarked line after you start digging. If you find one surprise line, it may have been a simple oversight by the utility company. But if you discover multiple lines, you may want to stop digging if you haven’t done so already. At this stage you can continue to search with your own tools, call the utility companies, or both. Most importantly, halt the dig until you’re certain that all lines have been properly identified and marked.

Sudden power outages

While it’s fairly uncommon to hit a utility line and not know it, always pay attention to your surroundings during an excavation. Sometimes environmental cues can be warning signs that something has gone wrong, despite appearances. Power outages on the job site may indicate that you hit an electrical line, which of course can be extremely dangerous. The potential for fire can tragically destroy a site and threaten lives. If you notice an outage, stop digging until you can verify the cause.

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