January 21

Avoiding Injury On Underground Excavations

As the SitePro team has discussed before, excavation work is one of the more risky construction jobs out there.

Now take that job and move it underground and it’s a whole different animal!

All of the risks associated with excavation work on the surface are ever-present on the underground work sites, with the addition of the possibility of an unstable site and the presence of buried utilities like gas, power, water, sewers, phone, and cable to name a few.

Knocking out water mains, gas pipes, power cables, etc. is a very dangerous risk involved with working on underground sites. Not only does it put the contractors in harm’s way, but it will cut off services to many people in the surrounding area.

Taking these precautions while excavating underground can lower the likelihood of damaging a utility line, which could potentially cause a lot of damage:

Visual Checks
Perform a visual check on the site for obvious signs of services including patching of road surfaces, valve covers and manholes.

Check Plans
Service plans should be available on site and used to help locate underground services.

Cable Location Devices
Cable locators should be used on site to trace services. The locator eg. CAT scan is used to trace the line of any live pipe or cable or to confirm the locations.

Marking Ground
Once identified, ground marking should be used to mark up services identified on site. This allows the workforce to easily locate the position of services.

Assume Live
It is better to assume a cable is live and play it safe, than assume it is dead and potentially put your life and the lives of others at risk.

Trial Holes
A series of trial holes will confirm the position of underground pipes and cables.

Dig by Hand
Where there is reason to believe there may be underground services present, hand digging with insulated tools should be used. Power tools or machinery should not be used within 0.5m of pipes or cables.

Tool Choice
Your choice of tool can reduce the risk to yourself and minimize the risk of damage to installed services. Spades and shovels are less likely to pierce cables with picks, forks or other sharp tools.

Precautions written by DarleyPCM – http://www.darleypcm.com/blog/healthandsafety/excavationworkandavoidingdangerfromundergroundservices

Following these helpful tips is a great way to lower the risks of working on an underground excavation site, but there is always exposure to risk even when proceeding with caution. Should anything happen, make sure to have a program like SitePro that offers insurance coverage that is designed with an excavation business’s needs in mind.

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