Know the truth behind utility safety and damage prevention
by William “Bernie” Bernhard
September 9, 2015

Everyone has a role to play in underground utility awareness and helping ensure overall safety and damage prevention. There are many stakeholders in the underground utility world. Thinking that someone else will do it is a big mistake, and just calling 811 is not enough.

From manufacturers, dealers, contractors and operators, to utility companies, locating services, 811 groups and government and municipalities, everyone's role is vital. Communication and cooperation are key. This year, to spread this knowledge, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) initiated an industry-wide Underground Utility Awareness campaign to promote industry best practices and demonstrate underground utility installation and repair as efficient, economical and safe. The initiative provides a toolkit of resources, including flyers, posters and social media graphics, to reach industry stakeholders and promote improved worker skills and knowledge.

AEM's goal is to involve the widest possible scope of industry groups and stakeholders and work together to educate and promote safe utility installation, repair and maintenance. The campaign materials were developed under the direction of AEM's Underground Equipment Manufacturers Council and its working committees. Safety materials related to underground utility work focus on directional drilling and directional drill tracking equipment, vacuum excavators, trenchers and auger boring machines.

The following is a brief rundown of common underground utility myths and the facts that disprove them. AEM and equipment manufacturers encourage all industry professionals, whether they are new workers or industry veterans, to take the time to review these common myths follow industry best practices to help save lives and prevent property damage.

Myth 1: Depths of utilities can safely be assumed.
Fact: Locator depths are approximate. Depths of utilities absolutely cannot be assumed and should be carefully and accurately measured.

Myth 2: "It will never happen to me."
Fact:"Thinking, I've done it a million times and nothing has happened," can lead to major, adverse consequences.

Myth 3: Exposing to the depth of the utility is good enough.
Fact: Exposing to the depth of the existing utility is simply not enough. Always expose to the depth of the intended bore path instead.

Myth 4: Just drill deeper to avoid hitting existing utilities.
Fact: Locating, potholing and jobsite preparation are necessities for every job, every time, no matter the environment or type of project.

Myth 5: Sewer lines do not need to be or cannot be located.
Fact: Several methods exist for locating sewage lines. Technology makes it easier to locate lines and make sure they weren\'t breached.

Myth 6: No locate marks = no utilities.
Fact: Verify, verify and verify again. If there are no marks, this could mean that the utility was not yet located.

Myth 7: "If something happens after I call 811, they are liable."
Fact: 811 does not locate utilities. It is the responsibility of the excavator to check locates have been completed and are correct.

Myth 8: Exposing utilities (potholing) is part of the contract price for drilling.
Fact: This should not be assumed. It is recommended to separate this activity from drilling in the full quote.

Myth 9: "We have to accept whatever the caller gives us"
Fact: When a contractor calls the call center or utility, both parties should provide sufficient details so an accurate and complete locate can be made.

Myth 10: Electric strike alert systems can predict an electric strike.
Fact: Sometimes the system may activate in proximity of an energized line, but it cannot be relied on to detect the line before a strike happens.

The AEM Underground Utility Awareness campaign will be featured at the International Construction & Utility Equipment Exhibition (ICUEE) \'96 The Demo Expo, September 29 through October 1 in Louisville, Kentucky, at the Kentucky Exposition Center.