Review these tips with coworkers at your tailgate or tool box meetings before work begins to help avoid potential hazards when working near underground utilities.
The tolerance zone is a safety area that spans the width of a marked underground utility plus a specified distance from each indicated outside edge of the utility. The specified distance varies from state to state. It is 24 inches in California.
If you are digging within the tolerance zone in California, any underground facilities that are in conflict with your excavation must be located with hand tools and protected before power equipment is used. If you wish to use vacuum excavation to locate marked facilities within the tolerance zone, you must first obtain the permission of the facility operator and you must inform the 811 service of your intent to use a vacuum excavation device when obtaining a dig ticket.
When digging in the tolerance zone, use reasonable care and these nondestructive digging methods:
Hand digging with a blunt shovel. Never use a pickaxe or pointed spade, and never stomp on a shovel with both feet. That’s a sure way to damage a utility line. Instead, use a blunt shovel to loosen soil, working at an angle.
Vacuum excavation. This method uses suction and water to quickly and safely remove soil. Be mindful of water pressure; use lower pressure and tips with multiple nozzles.
Once you have exposed buried utilities, proceed with extreme caution. Power digging equipment can damage a section of electrical conduit or pipeline in no time. Even hand digging can compromise buried utilities by removing supporting soil. Take all necessary precautions to protect buried utilities from damage.
Additional overhead and digging guidelines, emergency procedures and training tools can all be found at no charge to you on the PG&E
e-SMARTworkers website. Here you can also order free safety materials for contractors and tree workers.
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