Accident Prevention Begins Before Excavation

First In A Two-Part Series
By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | January 2013, Vol. 68, No. 1

“Know the state’s One-Call law that applies to the area where the job is,” says Peterson. “Provide accurate marking instructions. Be as specific as possible, and make sure instructions are clear. If locating instructions are complex, conduct a meeting at the site where maps are provided. Walk the project with locating personnel. Obtain signatures of those involved. Do not over notify -- request locates on an area much larger than the work site, causing the locator to mark more than what is necessary. If project details change, notify all involved, and if weather or other factors cause work to be rescheduled, recall the locate request and reschedule.”

Some states require the locator to provide a sketch of the locate to verify accuracy which many mean several sketches are needed, one for each facility.

“The excavator should make a simple drawing of the area that shows locations of buried facilities, using a map as the basis for the sketch,” Peterson says. “Take pictures, take videos. Document any discussions with locator personnel who may be representatives of the One-Call member or contractor locators hired by the utility provider. Note any questions about locates and answers provided by the locator.”

Many wireless smart phones carried by construction management and project supervisors have the capability to take photos, video and make audio recordings. When making a video, the device user or another person can explain images being captured. Satellite photos of the site also may be useful. This information should be transferred to an on-site computer, tablet or office computer to preserve the information and then stored by project number or in project files.

These records can be invaluable later if a dispute arises over responsibility for improperly located and marked facilities.

Before an underground utility installation begins, on-site personnel should be aware of tolerances required for depths of new installations and distances they should be away from existing facilities. Local codes and ordinances may be applicable.


“Locations of most utilities are measured from the outer edge,” says Peterson. “Required distances from existing facilities may be 18-inches, 24-inches or more. Questions to be answered include are tolerance zones regional or utility specific? Locations of most utilities are measured from the outer edge, assuming the width is represented accurately by marks or the size of utility is provided. Single painted lines should represent the center of the facility.

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