Prevention of Excavation Injuries Requires Contractors To Plan Ahead

Planning for Contractors at Excavation SitesUnderground construction is a hazardous business as it is, and lack of prior research about the locale can lead to many serious consequences – from grave injuries to even death of workers in some cases, as we have witnessed in the past. Excavation refers to a number of activities all of which have one thing common: the displacement of soil including drilling, directional or vertical, and trenching, which are the more frequently used techniques of excavation.
During the excavation process, there is always a chance that the crew may hit buried materials including pipes or cables, which can seriously hamper work progress, not to mention the accidents it may cause. However, the issue of pre-excavation planning also gains significance from the fact that the accidental damage caused during excavation can lead to serious litigation and the party involved may have to pay heavy fines that can be as thousands to millions of dollars.

Pre-Excavation Planning By General Contractors

Yet, pre-excavation planning and appropriate documentation can greatly minimize the perils of accidental damage or workforce injuries and future claims against the contractor. Two of the effective ways to reduce these risks is following the ‘One-Call’ system and taking apt measurements of the locality, which can greatly help to lessen the chances of hitting any utilities like cables, water ducts or conduits, sewer or natural gas pipes and communication facilities.

‘One-Call’ system (also called One-Call Law) refers to providing the appropriate documentation to the workers and locality management. It requires that precise instructions regarding the markings are given and concerned authorities are notified about the excavation planes which also includes informing them about any reschedules, obtaining the required signatures and walking the project with the ‘locating personnel’.

Measure Twice, Cut Once When It Comes To Excavating Areas

Another important step in this process is the measurement of accurate tolerance that the installations require, and the accurate distance from the existing facilities. The verification process also requires that the contractor provide a sketch of the locale to ascertain the accuracy of facilities present at the site. However, pictures and videos should also be taken to further substantiate the documentation that may be greatly useful for future references.  The construction management can easily use their smart phones to take pictures and audio/video recordings that should be transferred to the on-site computers to store the information. This documentation can prove to be vital if a future dispute or litigation arises regarding the location and documentation of facilities.

Apart from following the ‘One-Call’ system, the second important step during the pre-excavation process is taking accurate measurements. Most measurements concerning the utilities are taken from the outer edge. Usually the appropriate distance from the existing facilities is between 18 to 24 inches. The measurement also involves determining whether the tolerance zones are regional or specific to various utilities. Potholing techniques are increasingly used to verify the precise location of existing facilities, which further add accuracy to the measurements, as the exact locations of utilities are required in case a crossing is needed. As at the point of pothole a locale is deemed accurate, pothole records are invaluable in case of a disputed facility.

Realistic programs that include the steps discussed here can greatly reduce the risk of accidental damage during the excavation and shield the contractors from any possible litigation.

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