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.
You've called 811, and all buried utility lines on your job site have been located and marked. Now your power-digging work can begin, right?
Not so fast. In California, before you can use power-digging equipment to cross a marked utility line or excavate within 24 inches from the outside edge of the line, you must hand dig to determine the line's exact location.
Protect utility lines from damage and protect yourself from injury with these hand-digging tips:
- Use a rounded or blunt-edged shovel. Sharp tools like pickaxes, mattocks, pry bars or pointed spades may gouge or puncture lines.
- Start your digging off to the side of the marked utility line. Use a gentle, prying motion to break away soil as you approach the utility laterally.
- Never pry against a utility line to remove soil, and never stab at the soil or stomp on the shovel with both feet.
Always wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Don't twist your torso to move the dirt; move your feet to turn your entire body. Alternate shoveling between your left and right sides. Take care to prevent muscle strain, and take breaks to prevent fatigue.
Even a slight gouge, scrape or dent to a utility conduit or its coating may cause a break or leak in the future. Protect all exposed utility lines and check them regularly for damage. Before you backfill, check them again. Report any damage to PG&E so our crews can inspect the line and make the necessary repairs.
Additional digging guidelines, emergency procedures, case studies, instructional videos 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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