Damage to underground utilities from excavation and trenching activities is more common than is generally believed. Many construction projects require some degree of excavation or trenching and it is critical that all efforts are made to prevent damage to these utilities.
Underground utilities can include, but are not limited to the following: communication lines, power lines, natural gas pipes, sewers and water pipes and alarm systems. Each type of underground utility presents its own hazards and protection problem. There is a significant injury exposure to workers from explosion, fire, asphyxiation, electrocution as well as potential large losses in the form of damaged equipment and business interruption.
Get it in writing
There should be a written procedure for conducting utility locates. The procedure should include written documentation that the utility locate has been completed. Simply receiving verbal confirmation is not sufficient. Documentation confirming all necessary precautions have been taken is very important in the event a utility is damaged. Whenever excavation or trenching is performed, or heavy equipment is moved, the necessary precautions must be taken to identify utilities and minimize the potential for damage. An emergency plan should also be established in the event damage occurs.
The American Public Works Association (APWA) provides uniform colour coding for easy identification.
|International Colour Code for Marking Underground Utility Lines
|Temporary Survey Markings
|Electric Power Lines, Cables, Conduit and Lighting Cables
|Gas, Oil, Petroleum, or Gaseous Materials
|Communication, Alarm or Signal Lines, Cables or Conduit
|Reclaimed Water, Irrigation and Slurry Lines
|Sewers and Drain Lines
All excavation, trenching or underground construction activities have the potential to damage utilities. The contractor, working with the owners of the underground installations, must identify the utilities, locate them, and determine the potential hazards and method of controlling them. A good place to start is to create a checklist identifying all of the utility services that must be contacted before any work begins.