Vehicle and Equipment Blind Spots

Vehicle and Equipment Blind SpotsHeavy trucks & equipment is used on many different kinds of work sites all around the world. This equipment is very effective for the job it was designed to do, but it can also be very hazardous. Proper work planning as well as operating equipment within its designed limits are important basic steps for safe operation.


Struck-by hazards – Heavy equipment is responsible for many injuries and fatalities in the workplace. Ground personnel are far too often struck by equipment when they are in the line of fire.

Property damage – When operators do not see vehicles, materials, objects, tools, buildings, etc. in their area of operation property damage occurs. This costs employers millions of dollars a year in losses.

Collisions – when vehicles and equipment get close the risk of an accidental collision increases exponentially. The closer the riskier. Blind spots, complacency, and congested work areas are the leading causes of jobsite collisions.

Miscommunication – not having a well-defined and well understood plan is by far the most common hazard resulting in accidents. Take the time to walk down the job, route, and directions to get everyone on the same page BEFORE starting.

Best Practices:

  • All vehicles & equipment should be inspected and readied prior to use. Adjust the seats, mirrors, clean windows and check radios as part of the daily inspection process. Any problems found with equipment should be corrected before it is used. Document all defects on the daily inspection log.
  • A defined route and clear visual path for the operator when moving equipment from the point of origin to the work site. Stop look and listen before you take off or make a move. Take that extra second to look to your left, right and rear before moving that equipment or truck.
  • Operators should complete a walk around of their equipment every time before getting back into the cab to be sure no objects, people, or vehicles are in a blind spot. Someone might have just moved an item into the area a few minutes ago.
  • Establish a danger zone, that is; the working area where contact could result in personal injury or damage during operations.
  • Maintain a clear line of site between the operator and workers. Blind spots are common. If you can’t see the operator, they can’t see you. Always try to walk on the driver side of equipment as the passenger side has a larger blind spot.
  • Workers should keep a safe distance from all sides of the heavy equipment while it is in use. Be aware of the swing radius on certain equipment and, if possible, cordon off the area with barriers or caution tape.
  • Work areas should be properly delineated and enough space given to heavy equipment to operate properly. Clear out all unnecessary personnel, objects, and vehicles from where the equipment is operating. Keep light trucks back from the active work scene.
  • Operators should complete a walk around of their equipment every time before getting back into the cab to be sure no objects, people, or vehicles are in a blind spot.
  • Pull over to the side out of the way if you get confused, need directions or have to make or take a phone call. Loss of attention while you get things sorted puts you and others at risk as they maneuver around you.

20 Feet or 2 Eyes:

Fiore & Sons practice calls for us to keep 20 feet between all heavy equipment and trucks while on site or use 2 eyes of a spotter to help get in close to execute the work. Never drive up under the blind spot and turning radius of a pieces of heavy equipment like a scraper, excavator or crane. Use the “20 feet or 2 eyes” rule every day.

Speak up when others are in your blind spot; Listen up to avoid an injury or accident.

Download PDF to view Common Equipment & Truck Blind Spot Diagrams

Injury Fall from Trench Box Ladder

Injury Fall from Trench Box LadderDESCRIPTION

While installing mainline piping for residential development in Castle Pines, CO an employee fell onto bedding while descending a ladder into a trench box. The ladder was extended above the box 8 feet and not secured at the bottom; being only hooked over the trench box ladder hook on the left side facing the run. As he mounted the ladder on the trench side it pivoted, he lost his balance and fell into the trench. Fortunately, the injured person was not seriously hurt being able to complete the day’s work afterward.

Overnight he was sore requesting and received medical treatment the following day, given two doses of prescription pain medication by the physician. Due to an oversight, he was not D&A tested although per policy he was required to do so. The Foreman and Laborer were both given disciplinary warnings. The laborer stated he had a close call earlier with the ladder pivoting due to not being secured, but failed to act on it. This is an OSHA Recordable Injury Incident.


Procedure or Practice not Fully Developed: During the investigation it was determined that a Safe Work Practice (SWP) did not exist for the routine task of assembling and using the trench box and access. A SWP is needed so all persons understand what is expected of them to work safely.

Incomplete Training/Communication: Failure to Utilize STOP Work, See Something Say Something (SSSS) or Speak-Up Listen-Up (SULU) practices by the craftsman and his co-worker present to secure the ladder after having a close call earlier in the day. Trench ladder use is considered routine and was not addressed in the Daily Toolbox. Toolbox talks are to capture routine tasks as well as new ones.

>Look into alternate ladder attachments, ladder types, and available equipment for double stack trench box applications.Incomplete or Inadequate Inspection: The Trench and Excavation Inspection form was competed but not thoroughly. The section addressing on safe access was not adequately looked at for ladder securement, and a clear access transition onto/off of ladder adjacent to the trench box.


> Prepare a (1) Safety Alert and (2) Safe Work Practice to share with work crews via Tailgate Topics and onsite Awareness. Discuss implementing SWP at next Foreman’s Meeting. Require all ladders to be secured with a safe access landing.

> The fall was significant and should have resulted in immediate notification to supervision and the employee being evaluated by a doctor. The D&A policy requires testing when employees are seen by doctor. Review policy with employees, Foreman and Supts.

> Update the FSI Trench & Excavation Form to add detail to the access and trench box set up portion. Have ready for next Foreman’s Meeting.

> Supervisors and HSE staff to document review of T&E Inspection form and all ladder usage as part of the Routine Safety Site Safety Inspection.

> Look into alternate ladder attachments, ladder types, and available equipment for double stack trench box applications.

Tips for Clear Communication with Two Way Radios

Radios are placed in company vehicles and equipment as a means of efficient & safe communications. They are not toys, a place for standup comedy routine or to discuss your weekend plans.

Think before you speak.

  • Decide what you are going say and to whom it is meant for.
  • Make your conversations as concise, precise, and clear as possible.
  • Avoid long and complicated sentences. Use brief messages.
  • Your voice should be clear. Speak a little slower than normal. Speak in a normal tone.
  • Do not use abbreviations or slang unless they are well understood by your group

Be Prepared: When you have the talk button pressed, no one else in your group can speak or be heard. Two way radios are a one-at-a-time system unlike telephones where you can interrupt and talk over each other. Think about your message beforehand. Think before you speak is always good advice.

Identify Yourself and Who the Message is for: Onsite all share the same radio channel. Use good manners to identify yourself immediately when you start transmitting. Get the attention of the person you want before relaying your message. “OVER” is used to let the other person know you’ve finished speaking.

Examples: “Corn Dog, this is Trash, OVER, dump the cut near me” or “Jake this is Sparky OVER, can you join me here at the pit?

Be patient: The other person may not be able to respond immediately; give them time to reply before re-sending your call.

Use short, clear and concise messages: As two way radios only allow one person to speak at a time, it’s best to keep your transmissions short, clear and to the point. This gives other users an opportunity to acknowledge your message or request further clarification before you carry on with your next point.

Radio users often repeat a message utilizing three way communication to make it clear that they’ve heard and understood the information.

Three-Way Comms: Sender says his message, receiver repeats it back, sender agrees or provides more detail. Always keep messages short.

Pause before speaking: When you first press the push to talk (PTT) button, there can be a short delay before your radio transmits. This could result in your first couple of words being cut off, so wait a second or two before speaking to be sure your listeners receive your whole message.

Learn the lingo: It helps two way radio communication when everyone understands and uses similar language and etiquette, especially when there are more than two people using the channel.

  • Over – I’ve finished speaking
  • Say Again – Repeat your last message
  • Stand-by – I got it, but can’t talk right now
  • Go ahead – I can respond, go ahead with your message
  • Roger – message received and understood
  • Affirmative / Negative – Yes / No
  • Out – Conversation is finished

The phonetic alphabet: It’s often necessary to clarify an important part of your message by spelling it out. Following is a list showing the phonetics used for the alphabet:


Use your radio professionally. If not, your handset will be removed and you will have to follow instead of lead.

Confined Spaces are Dangerous Places

Sewers are often confined work spacesWHAT IS A CONFINED SPACE?

A confined space can be any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (eg. lack of oxygen).

Some confined spaces are fairly easy to identify, eg enclosures with limited openings:

  • Storage tanks
  • Silos
  • Enclosed drains
  • Sewers
  • Manholes
  • Vaults

Others may be less obvious, but can be equally dangerous, for example:

  • Open-topped chambers
  • Storm box culverts
  • Trenches & pits
  • Ductwork
  • Crawl spaces
  • Unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms
  • Engine compartments
  • Dump truck beds & vehicle undercarriage

It is not possible to provide a comprehensive list of confined spaces. Some places may become confined spaces when work is carried out, or during their construction, fabrication or subsequent modification. NEVER enter a Confined Space without the correct training, supervision, risk assessments and written method of work.

Lack of oxygen and toxic fumes are highly dangerous aspects of working in confined spacesWHAT ARE THE RISKS?

A number of people are killed or seriously injured in confined spaces each year in the U.S. This happens in a wide range of industries, from those involving complex plant to simple storage vessels. Those killed include not only people working in the confined space but those who try to rescue them without proper training and equipment.

Dangers can arise in confined spaces because of, lack of oxygen, poisonous gas, fume or vapors, liquids/solids that can fill the space, fire, explosion and hot conditions.


A suitable and sufficient assessment must be carried out of the risks for all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety. For work in confined spaces, this means identifying the hazards present, assessing the risks and determining what precautions to take. A confined space risk assessment must be carried out by a company designated competent person with sufficient experience and familiarity with the relevant work and equipment so that they fully understand the risks involved.


Utilize the FSI Safe Work Permit and carry out atmospheric testing. Determine if the space is permit required or is a non-permit required space. Many are non-permit requiring but are still potentially dangerous. Have a light source, a rescue plan and utilize the tripod with a harness for entry so the attendant does not have to enter to rescue the entrant. Ventilation and fresh air are needed to ensure safe breathing atmosphere for the entrant. Discuss the hazards and the controls at the Daily Huddle toolbox before starting the work. Plan ahead several days to assemble all the required tools and training before they are needed.

Confined spaces are dangerous places; review the hazards and establish controls before entering one.

Fire Extinguisher Use and Inspection

Fire extinguishers are an important tool in preventing a small fire from growing larger. However, they should not be used to combat large or rapidly spreading fires. The most important thing to do during a fire is to get yourself and coworkers to safety then call the proper authorities (911) to combat the fire. Equipment, building, and property are not worth putting yourself or anyone at risk trying to put it out with a fire extinguisher. It is important to understand how to use a fire extinguisher and the limitations they have. Most only spray for 10 to 30 secs after that you are left beating out the fire with a red cylinder on the end of a hose!

Fire extinguishers are only designed to fight small firesP.A.S.S. Method

The easiest way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher is to follow the P.A.S.S. method. The PASS acronym was developed to allow people to remember the basic four steps to properly use a fire extinguisher.

P- Pull. Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher away and release the locking mechanism.

A- Aim. Aim the stream towards the base of the fire. Spraying the flames will not put the fire out.

S- Squeeze. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly. Pulling the lever too fast may shoot the stream from your target wasting the valuable firefighting agent.

S- Sweep. Sweep the nozzle side to side to combat the fire.

Fire Extinguisher Limitations

  • A dry chemical fire extinguisher (“ABC”) will reach a distance between 5 and 20 feet. It is important to be familiar with the models used in your work areas.
  • A 10lb to 20lb dry chemical fire extinguisher will last anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Fire extinguishers are only designed to fight small fires. A rule of thumb is the size of the fire should not be any larger than the size of a small trash can.

Fire extinguishers are an important tool in preventing a small fire from growing largerFire Extinguisher Inspection Tips

  • Extinguishers in office, yard and onsite should be checked each month. Extinguishers on equipment should be checked every day with the Daily Inspection. These inspections should be documented and turned in. A formal check by a third party of all fire extinguishers is done annually and a decal applied to the body.
  • Ensure the pressure is okay when inspecting a fire extinguisher. There is a gauge that has an arrow that should be in the green portion of the gauge. If the arrow is in the red the fire extinguisher needs to be tagged out of service until recharged.
  • Check to make sure the pin is still in place. Often times the pin is bumped out of place leaving the chance of accidental discharge occurring.
  • Look for rust on the container and ensure that the label is in good readable condition. Verify that the latch or strap holds the unit in place.
  • Look for mud, insects, and debris in the hose end of the extinguisher to make sure it is not plugged. Check to see if the hose is cracked or damaged.
  • Make sure there is a tag on the extinguisher and it is signed off each month. Operators/drivers sign off on their equipment extinguishers.
  • Turn in used or inoperative extinguisher to warehouse or your supervisor to be serviced or a replacement one put in its place.


It is important to know more than just where the fire extinguishers are located in your work area. Make sure you know how to properly use them in case the time comes where you need to extinguish a fire. Always make sure the fire extinguishers in your work areas are in good condition through thorough inspections. If you are unsure on extinguisher operation ask your supervisor for help & demonstration.

All equipment, trucks, pumps, gensets, mechanics, oilers, offices & welding areas are to have a fire extinguisher.

Safe Work Practice – Manhole and Grate Opening

Fiore and Sons Inc. as a utility and earth moving contractor has a risk for injury when opening manholes and storm sewer grates. Although a routine task, improperly opening manholes can result in an injury.

Removing Manhole lid

Due Diligence

Before opening a manhole or grate carry out the following:

  • Obtain authorization to open the manhole. Some installations require a permit from the owner before proceeding.
  • Secure the area with cones or barricades as necessary to protect the public.
  • Have correct and adequate tools for the job on hand. Shovel, block, manhole hook, large screwdriver, sledgehammer may all be needed depending on the type of lid.
  • Obtain 811 locates if the job will require excavating near or beside a manhole or grating.
  • Be prepared to perform air monitoring and testing with a calibrated device.
  • Hold a Safety Huddle Toolbox to discuss the details of the operation.
  • Ensure the crew is trained in the Safe Work Practice for opening gratings and manholes.

Safe Work Practice

Below is a pictorial representation of the appropriate way to open a manhole. Many manholes differ in design and may require more thought and preparation to have the correct tools and plan in place before starting. Do not underestimate the danger and risk of the task.

Many manholes differ in design

Removing Manhole lid or grating:

  • Have a co-worker watch for traffic. Strike the lid with a hammer if necessary to loosen it.
  • Clean out the pick pocket and firmly insert the hook into the lid opening.
  • Come to the far side of the manhole before picking. Stand on the opposite side of the hook.
  • With your back straight and your knees slightly bent use the hook as a lever to pop open the lid.
  • Firmly plant your feet and with your back straight use your legs to push down on the hook and pry up the lid.
  • To readjust the hook pry point, insert a block between the lid and rim. Do not place fingers or feet under lid.
  • Pull the lid toward yourself using care not to place your fingers or feet under the lid.
  • Drag the lid toward yourself and onto the ground. Be able to see the opening the whole time you are pulling the lid.
  • Prop the lid on a block so it’s easier to reinsert the hook later to replace the lid.

Replacing the Manhole lid or grating:

  • Clean the rim edge to remove debris that keeps the lid from seating properly. Do not lean over the opening.
  • Move to the opposite side of the lid and place the hook underneath it.
  • Do not place your fingers under the lid or use your foot as a block to set the hook.
  • Remove the block and any nearby tools so they do not end up in the bottom of the manhole.
  • Plant your feet and with a straight back use your legs to slide the lid back over the opening.
  • Do not rush and do not pull with your back to lift the lid back in place.
  • On the opposite side of the lid use your foot or shovel to push the lid back in. Keep the lid between you and the opening.

Spotter Duties – Having Courage To Speak Up

A spotter is necessary for heavy equipment and vehicles OSHA’s View on Spotters

OSHA 1926.1408 states a spotter must:

  • Dedicated to the task, who is in continuous contact with the operator.
  • Be trained and equipped to identify the minimum clearance distance from objects & hazards.
  • Be positioned to see hazards & effectively gauge the clearance distance.
  • Able to communicate directly with the operator.
  • Provide timely information to the operator so that the required clearance distance or avoidance can be maintained.

When do we need a spotter?

When it comes to safety, a spotter is necessary for heavy equipment and vehicles to move safely when the operator cannot see the pending hazard.

  • Spotters should be used when lifting or moving materials with heavy equipment.
  • Maneuvering near, into, or inside buildings or other structures.
  • Passing under or near overhead power lines.
  • When in congested areas or physical hazards pose a risk of damage to our equipment and public or clients assets.

Spotters keep utilities, equipment and personnel safe while excavatingExcavation Spotter

Having the courage and experience to keep utilities, equipment and personnel safe while excavating.

  • Experienced, focused, knows, and understands his authority and responsibility.
  • Is willing to STOP work. Has courage to do so.
  • Maintain visual and verbal contact with the operator.
  • Have hand signals & communication worked out with operator.
  • Understands the color code of 811CO locate flags & marks.
  • Is aware of below ground indications of utilities such as warning tape, sand & bedding, previously compacted soils, trash and debris.
  • If the spotter has to leave the area then he has to notify operator and the task stops.
  • Knows the emergency response plan and who to contact if the operator/foreman is unable to or cannot respond.

Backing Spotter

Ask another to help you back in vehicles and trailers in congested areas and around public & client facilities.

  • Make sure the spotter and driver clearly understand each other’s hand signals and voice commands
  • If unsure of an instruction or direction the driver is the STOP.
  • Spotter to stay in view of the driver’s mirror and do not stand directly behind vehicle.
  • Spotter is not to walk backwards behind vehicle.
  • If driver loses sight of spotter stop immediately.
Being a spotter is a responsibility. Spotters are authorized to STOP Work to avoid strikes & mishaps.

How to Plan For and Limit Severe Weather Effects

Sever weather can heavily impact outdoor jobsWHY TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER?

Although we have no control over rain, snow, sleet, wind, lightning or sunshine; we can control what happens on our job & at home as a result of the elements. Some of the biggest obstacles we encounter are caused by rain, wind and lightning. Wind probably causes the most accidents; lightning can be deadly; rain makes mud and runoff compliance problems. All affect driving and commuting.


Do not let the wind catch you off guard. Do not just think of tornadoes or hurricanes, but of everyday winds and unexpected gusts. Wind can pick up anything and sail it away. So when it’s windy, securely tie or weight down supplies and materials. A gust can pick up a sheet of plywood from the top of the pile and carry it several hundred feet. Wind can blow your vehicle or equipment door closed in a second before you move your hand.


Every so often we read about someone being struck by lightning. This usually results in a fatal outcome.

We all like to keep things moving until we are rained out. But when lightning is around, it is safer to take shelter early and avoid the scramble. Often an electrical storm occurs without rain and most often lightning strikes come before the heavy rain. If you are working outside in the open, on top of steel framework, water tower, on the roof, or near equipment the safest thing to do is to seek shelter when you see lightning.

You will be reasonably safe from lightning inside the structure, particularly when equipped with grounding rods. You will also be fairly safe inside an automobile, heavy equipment or truck. Never take shelter under an isolated tree or where you’re outside in contact with a tractor, crane, or other metallic equipment. If you get caught out in the open, stay as low as you can and seek shelter. If you count less than 10 “Mississippi” between the thunder and the lightning flash, take shelter indoors immediately until 30 minutes after the storm passes.

Hail can be dangerous at any sizeRAIN & HAIL CAN RUIN A JOB

Rain is good for the lawn and the farmer but it plays havoc with a construction job. Once dry roads and sites can turn into a gigantic mud pie. Rain can ruin building materials and supplies and generally make things downright messy. Steel gets slippery, equipment gets stuck, and we all get wet.

Hail can be dangerous depending on the size. Pieces as small as ½ inch have seriously injured persons and collect in storm drains blocking flow flooding streets. Seek shelter for your vehicle and yourself at an overpass, gas station or in your garage when hail falls. Damage to roofs and vehicles by hail cost millions of dollars each year. We can eliminate slipping hazards by sweeping or pumping water out of low areas used as access and passageways.


By planning to secure and cover equipment, work in progress, materials, tools, supplies and ourselves; we do not give inclement weather a chance to do as much damage as it could. Have a plan for inclement weather and discuss it with your crew and family.

Discuss a plan with your family and workmates on what to do if inclement weather creates an issue. Power outage, lost production, localized flooding & inundation plus slippery muddy surfaces should all be considered. Establishing a rendezvous point and having tarps, pumps, unblocked storm drain and house rain gutters are all part of planning for wet weather.

Superintendents, foreman, and managers are to monitor the weather forecast. It is recommended to use a weather APP that will warn of pending extreme weather.

Inclement weather is powerful and unpredictable. Plan for the worst & work for the best.

Wildfire Safety at Work and Home

Wildfire safetyOne thing that all of us are aware of is that out of control fire does not discriminate. It does not care who you are or where you are. If you are in its path it will cause incomprehensible and unforgiving damage and destruction in a matter of seconds. There are some key points to consider while at work or home to protect your family and co-workers.

Have an Emergency Action Plan

At Work

  • Designate a Muster Location. Make sure everyone on site knows where to meet in the event of a wildfire. Tell those who are periodically on site, (i.e. Crew, Managers, Oilers/Mechanics, & Subs)
  • Have a Daily Personnel List and an Emergency Contact List. Superintendents and Site Foreman should know who is on site. Always check in/out with the Foreman. Foreman has access to names and numbers of site personnel, emergency contacts and Client.
  • Periodically Question Site Personnel. As part of the Daily Toolbox talk ask individuals if they know where to go and what to do and the fire potential hazards and controls for their assignment
  • Planning for Wildfire. Conduct a practice drill to check readiness. Everyone must know what to do in case of a wildfire. Discuss the plan as part of a weekly safety meeting; determine responsibilities. Coordinate with the fire department on the best route to get to the site.

At Home

  • Designate a Rally Point. Make sure all family members know where to meet in the event of a wildfire. Make sure to account for everyone. Have a safe location to meet. If kids are away have a means to contact them. Have an emergency supply kit in your vehicle.
  • Have a Good Plan. If you are not there, who will carry it out? Does everyone know what to do? Who will pick up the kids? Who will gather up the pets & medicines? If your first entrance or road is blocked, is there a secondary road to take? Have garden hoses readily available to wet vegetation and roofs. If a fire is headed your way get out as soon as possible.
  • Have an Itemized List of Home Items. Have a lists or valuables with pictures, description and serial numbers. This will help with an insurance claim. Keep important documents (i.e. birth certificate(s), passport, financial papers etc.) in a safe, fireproof location.
  • Be Prepared to Leave Home. Leave as early as possible, before you are told to evacuate. Leaving promptly clears the roads for firefighters to get in place to fight the fire. Allows yourself time to get things in order. There is no telling when you may be able to return.

Wildfire preventionWildfire Prevention is the Best Practice

At Work

  • Dispose of Combustibles. Check daily to ensure debris/trash is picked up, put in receptacles, & removed.
  • Have a Designated Smoking Area. Make sure that it is away from dry vegetation & buildings w/ a butt container & fire extinguisher.
  • Handle Flammables Correctly. Store flammables (i.e. gas cans, spray paints, two cycle mix etc.) in a flammable cabinet if possible. If not, keep out of direct sunlight. Make sure a fire extinguisher is readily accessible. Do not store flammables with combustibles. Report and clean up all spills.
  • Check for Dry Vegetation. Avoid starting your vehicle on top of dry vegetation. The heat from a hot catalytic converter has been known to start fires. Avoid starting equipment on dry vegetation
  • Maintain the Landscape. Trim grasses and pick up limbs and sticks. Keep trees & shrubs trimmed to create Defensible Space

At Home

  • Clear leaves and debris from gutters, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home. Remove dead vegetation from under your deck or patio. Keep firewood stacks away from your home. Keep your lawn watered if possible.
  • Invest in a Fire Extinguisher. We are not fire fighters, but consider if you are trapped or the fire is still manageable, fire extinguishers are extremely handy. Recommend and ABC Dry Chemical Extinguisher.
  • Debris Burning. Do not burn on dry, windy days. Burn late in the day after the wind has quieted and humidity increases. Monitor the weather and avoid burning on high risk days. Remain outdoors until the fire is completely out. Keep water, a fire extinguisher and tools ready to use. If you burn in a barrel, consider using a wire mesh screen. Never burn on restricted days.
  • Home Modifications. Considering fire resistant home modifications: Class A shingles, slate or tile roofing, exterior walls of stucco or masonry and double paned tempered glass as heat barrier. Make sure your driveway is fire engine accessible: 12 ft. wide, 15 ft. vertical clearance, and a slope less than 5 %.

Wildfire is unpredictable. Fires start from something as large as lightning strike or as small as a spark or cigarette butt. Most are man caused.

Wildfires are a common occurrence, planning can minimize the impact on families and co-workers.

Preventing Utility Strikes

Utility Workers Discussing Strike AvoidanceNo matter what procedures we put in place eventually we will make contact with a utility. Sometimes in plain sight that little voice inside us says “Aw I can get closer” and then “bam or pow” the next thing you know phones are ringing. In some cases, a locator has been contacted and has marked the site and you have been cleared.

You are ready to go and you grab a bucket full of soil and next thing you know you hear a “pop” or a “hiss.” Where the line was supposed to be, it is not there, and the locate is off by five feet. According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), over the last twenty years, utility strikes have resulted in $1.7 billion in damage, 1,906 injuries, and 421 deaths. These are the ones that have been reported. It is unknown how many contacts and repairs have been made.


  • What states have incurred the most damage incidents? Texas, followed by Georgia, and then Illinois.
  • What lines were contacted the most and incurred the most damage? Telecomm lines followed by natural gas.
  • Which equipment is responsible for the most damage incidents? The backhoe/trencher followed by hand tools.
  • What were the top three damage root causes? Excavation practice unsafe, locates not called in, and locating practices insufficient.


So, what can we do to prevent such incidents? Below are best practices we can implement:Practice Proper Excavation Techniques

  • Call in and document your locates. Compare the field locates to your plans and walk down the site. Take the time to review the plans and marks with operators and workers. Refresh marks after weather and every 20 days.
  • Document calls to all Tier 2 utility holders on the 811CO ticket.
  • Don’t assume that a line is “Dead” if it was unmarked. Have your plan sheet with you.
  • Do not rely 100% on Ground Penetrating Devices (GPR) or Electromagnetic Locator (EML), look for signs of utilities above ground and compare to the marks.
  • Expose the line so you know the route and depth by hand digging and potholing.
  • Consider exposing as much of the utility as possible across your trench by means of HydroVac excavation
  • Utilize an operator with a good touch and feel when it comes to utilities and conscious of the hazards above and below ground.
  • Utilize a focused and field trained Spotter who will “STOP WORK” when things don’t look right.
  • Communicate what you found. If you find something, report what you have found to others and the GC.

Let’s be honest, due to the business that we are in, contact with utilities is inevitable. We all need to make sure we are doing the things that we can control and following company procedure as a means of performing our due diligence.

Not just some of the time, but all of the time and if you are not sure, contact your supervisor or health and safety.

Never dig without an active 811CO ticket. Respect underground utilities with an 18-inch buffer. Hand dig to expose the utility in your trench.
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