Take Your Safety Checks Seriously on Jobs

Using the right equipment, training and double-checking job sites are ways to ensure a safer job site for your crews and the public

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Digging safely is a priority that every company in this industry should take to heart. They should have that goal every day they are out on a job site working.

Over the past year, we’ve seen the news stories — downtown area in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, had a large explosion, killing one, and another gas explosion in San Francisco. Both of these happened because either the utilities weren’t marked correctly or the lines were struck with bucket-type equipment.

While there is no surefire way to prevent these accidents from ever happening, there are ways they can be reduced: using the right equipment, training and double-checking the job site.


Let’s start with equipment. Digging with traditional equipment like excavators increases the chances of striking a utility — whether it be electrical or gas. The force of those buckets driving down onto conduit or pipe can do some serious damage.

Using equipment like vacuum excavators can greatly reduce the chances of hitting anything. You’re using water or air to dig down rather than a giant metal bucket with teeth on it.

With directional drills, you still have the potential to hit an unmarked or poorly marked utility, but your chances diminish if you use the drills in combination with potholing.

If you’re a contractor still using excavators or backhoes for all of your digging needs, consider looking into vacuum excavators. You could be saving a life with such a move and maybe even pick up more work from companies that only want digging done with those machines.


Ensuring your crews know what they are doing is probably the biggest thing that can cut down on accidents. You don’t want to throw a new hire on an expensive directional drill or vacuum excavation truck on his or her first day.

Just think of the damage they could do if they’ve never operated one before. I’ve never operated a directional drill, but I’ve tried using a training simulator and I’ve also operated traditional excavation equipment. Neither time went very well.

There are plenty of ways to get your crews trained. Many manufacturers have training resources for contractors. Ditch Witch and Vermeer both have directional drilling simulators. Vacuum excavation companies can send out guys to help get your crews accustomed to the equipment.

Hit up as many trade shows as you can that revolve around this industry. Those will help a lot, and many of them offer credits toward training.

Check with area technical colleges and see if they have any programs related to your company. There is a small technical college in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that now offers directional drilling as a course.


You have the right equipment. Your crews are properly trained. Now what? Double-check the work you are doing.

If you get to the job site and find that the utilities have been marked, it’s still a good idea to double-check them with your own utility locating equipment. Even if you marked them yourself, go over everything again just to be sure.

Potholing is a great way to check the marks for accuracy. If you are directional drilling, make sure you have a locator out there checking regularly to ensure you are on the right path and avoiding utilities.

It never hurts to double-check your work or anyone else’s work.


The busy time of the year is upon us, so let’s be safe out there and cut back on accidents that could have been avoided.

Do you have your own tips on how to avoid accidents? Email me at editor@digdifferent.com or call me at 715-350-8436.

Enjoy this issue!


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