Tools Of The Trade Only Work With Proper Training, Supervision

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | July 2014, Vol. 69 No. 7

Protecting the nation’s buried utility infrastructure is a continuing challenge for utility providers and the contractors that maintain and install the new pipes and cables needed to keep pace with growing demands of business and residential users.

Installing new utilities to replace old and failing infrastructure and to expand risks accidentally damaging utilities already in place in crowded easements often creates challenges. Of course, any type of construction that requires excavation or disturbs soil on a job site can accidentally strike buried utility lines.

Utility companies and contractors are bolstering efforts to prevent damage to underground infrastructure, yet each year thousands of hits occur resulting in millions of dollars in damage, lost services, injury and death.

A critical step in preventing incidents is accurately locating and marking existing buried infrastructure before construction begins. That process is initiated by contacting One-Call and initiating a ticket for locating and marking buried lines on a work site, a task done either by the member utility owner’s personnel or a contractor locating company.

The basic tools for locating underground utilities are:

• Electromagnetic Locators – the “standard” and most widely used tool for locating underground utilities;
• Ground Penetrating Radar – a transmitting component mounted on a wheeled platform that generates radio waves to penetrate the soil to identify locations of buried utilities and other objects;
• Passive Electronic Markers – a handheld locator generates a radio signal which is reflected to the transmitter identifying the marker’s location; and
• Potholing – physically exposes utilities to visually confirm their precise locations.

Strengths, weaknesses

Each locating method has strong points and limitations. To effectively locate buried infrastructure, locating personnel must be trained in locating techniques and should be equipped with the latest locating equipment.

The electromagnetic locator is a two-component system: compact transmitter and handheld receiving unit. They are accepted throughout the industry and are accurate when correctly used in appropriate conditions.