Common Hydrovac Operation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Common Hydrovac Operation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Despite training and guidelines set in place for vacuum excavation, accidents still occur. Experienced operators are constantly mindful of job site hazards. Here is a list of common mistakes and how they can be avoided, reducing the number of job site accidents.

Parking too close to the dig site 

When vacuum excavating or HDD drilling, be sure to park heavy machinery at a safe distance. Oftentimes, the ground fails due to overall weight and vibration of the truck, which can cause the truck, the operator or both to fall into the hole. For reasons like this, the size and weight of the excavation unit are often important factors to consider before even setting out to begin work. Making sure you have the right equipment for the job and environment is key to work site safety, which is why most manufacturers like RAMVAC offer various machines of different sizes and capabilities because they understand that there is no such thing as a true “one-size-fits-all” solution in utility locating.

Lack of a spotter 

Not using a spotter can lead to striking overhead obstacles with the vacuum boom. Hitting power lines can send voltage to the chassis, damaging computers, or worse, electrocuting operators. Know your overhead clearance so as not to hit a bridge or power lines when working the vacuum excavator boom. Utilizing a wireless remote for boom operation allows operators to keep their eyes on the boom while moving, ensuring complete visibility whenever the boom is in motion.

Using broken or worn tools 

Operators who are pressed for time may feel compelled to use inadequate tools to save time or cut corners. This should always be discouraged, as using tools and equipment for unintended purposes, or continuing to use tools that are worn down and broken increases risk of equipment failure, jeopardizing the safety of the operators and others. Regular inspection and replacement of tools and equipment goes a long way to ensuring operators' wellbeing and productivity. Reputable, licensed online parts dealers like offer repair parts and replacement accessories to keep operators in action with safe and affordable solutions.

Experienced operator complacency 

Skilled or veteran operators may find themselves becoming more relaxed as they grow familiar with the machine or jobs. Complacency causes accidents, and lax expectations can cause operators to miss vital steps or ignore potential hazards. Operators who are careful and mindful of their surroundings are less apt to damage utilities and equipment or harm others on accident.

Ignoring the limitations and capabilities of your equipment 

Understanding the maximum capacities and functions of your machine is key to success and preventing accidents. For example, a common issue is operators overloading the debris tanks, causing the entire truck to be overweight on the road. Manufacturers like RAMVAC understand that operators may often have their attention divided at job sites, offering equipment features like an audible debris tank level which sounds an audible alarm when the debris tank has reached a set capacity, allowing operators to ensure they are maintaining a legal load weight without distracting them from their task. On the other hand, while some operators overestimate their machines, underestimating the power behind them can be even more dangerous; you must make sure the suction does not get a hold of you. Avoid going into holes that are too deep without proper shoring or a trench box. Being mindful of the capacity, dimensions and capabilities of your machine is vital to operate under safe conditions.

Not having proper PPE 

Each job has different requirements and hazards. While it might be common sense to wear high-visibility clothing, gloves, glasses and hard hats, it is a life-risking chance to not have a gas detector on jobs where it is required. Always ensure you know what equipment and tools are necessary, and have the correct PPE required for the job you are doing.

Leaving the job site in a hurry 

Operators should be certain to clean up the job site and prepare their vehicle for transportation. For example, ensuring the boom is in the cradle prior to driving down the road to avoid hitting overhead items is one of the many things each operator should protect themselves and their equipment. Rushing to leave job sites can also lead to things like losing tools, remotes and other accessories which can be hazardous to others, as well as expensive to replace. 

Lack of winterization procedures 

During freezing temperatures, it is vital to winterize your vacuum excavator every day during cold-weather applications. If this is not done every day prior to leaving the truck for the night, water components can freeze (even in an enclosed building), causing major damage and high replacement costs. Certain manufacturers like RAMVAC offer built-in antifreeze recirculation systems to offer additional protection to vulnerable water systems for both overnight or long-term storage and traveling between job sites.

At the end of the day, mistakes and accidents happen because operators often feel stressed for time and want increased efficiency but having the right machine and an understanding of basic safety can make all the difference. To learn more about the RAMVAC hydroexcavator series, visit

Rental and used inventory are available through Rock Rentals.


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