When using powerful vacuum trucks for excavation work, there are a lot of precautions that must be taken to avoid dangerous situations. Despite this, many operators rely on word-of-mouth myths that cause them to make incorrect assumptions that could be disastrous.
Avoiding costly and injurious accidents requires knowing the right way to use these specialty vacuum trucks and knowing the truth about the most common excavation myths!
- It Won’t Happen to Me - This is a big myth that relates to just about every job, including work done for utilities using air excavators. Unfortunately, utility strikes and other accidents with this equipment happen every day. Rather than becoming one of the statistics, operators of excavator vacuum trucks must work as safely as possible and not cut any corners.
- No Locate Marks Mean No Underground Utilities - It’s easy to assume that if there are no location marks, there are no utilities present in the ground. This assumption could prove to be deadly. Operators should utilize their state’s positive response system to verify that there are no utilities. Lots with privately installed lines may not be marked.
- Utility Depths Can Be Estimated - Due to many variables that can change the actual location of utilities lines, it is never safe to estimate depths. Geography, ground settling, and other changes to the grade or fill can affect locations. For this reason, locator depths should only be used as an estimate. Uncovering the utilities using excavation vacuum trucks to confirm location is always necessary.
- Uncover Only to the Utility Depth - Excavating only far enough to reach the depth of utility lines is also not enough. The entire line must be exposed to confirm there are no other utilities buried beneath them that could be damaged if not detected.
- Drill Deeper to Be Safe - While this myth may make sense as a good way to avoid drilling into buried utility lines, it is still dangerous. Deep drilling prevents the detection of many underground utilities because locators become less responsive beyond about ten feet. All utilities should be carefully located and potholed with excavation vacuum trucks used in combination with locators for safe, efficient drilling.
- Sewer Lines Cannot Be Located - Not only is it possible to locate sewer lines using current ground radar technology and other methods, it is also highly important that they are located. If a sewer line is damaged during a utility installation, that could cause clogging that will require repair. This in turn could expose the plumber doing that repair to underground utility lines. A dangerous gas leak, or someone being electrocuted, could be the result.
- Electric Strike Alert Systems Are Predictive - Electric strike systems should never be relied upon to predict a strike since they only activate when enough current and voltage is detected. An active alert suggests that a strike has already happened, as opposed to being just a warning that one could happen. Whenever there is an active alert, always assume that an electric strike has occurred.
Safe potholing and excavating with vacuum trucks demands the careful operation of these trucks and following all safety procedures. Shortcuts are dangerous, both now and in the future. Operators of excavation vacuum trucks must avoid believing these dangerous myths and do the best job possible when locating and digging for utility lines. Doing so creates a safer work environment for everyone!