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Above Ground Utility Structures Will Help You Understand What’s Below Ground!


At almost every in-class training session that OWN Your Safety delivers, we are asked the same question: “What’s the most important thing that I can do to ensure I don’t strike a buried utility line?” – My first response is always “KNOWing before you dig is critical in taking ownership for your safety” however, there is a lot to KNOW and you need to start somewhere. Starting with taking our Utility Infrastructure Awareness training; understanding how to read and interpret locate reports; knowing what the marks on the ground mean; and how to deal with limitations and special instructions on locate reports, is a very good start. What I most often suggest is that knowing the purpose of utility infrastructure, how it is installed, how it functions, and what the structures above ground look like, is where I would start to ensure that I know my surroundings before I start interpreting public and private locate paperwork.

There are many clues that buried utility infrastructure exists within your work area. If you find a utility structure in your work area, odds are that there is a buried facility servicing that structure. When a structure is identified, many questions should come to mind including:

  1. What buried facility services this structure;

  2. What is its purpose;

  3. How many cables or pipes enter, stop at, or leave this structure;

  4. What are the consequences if I damage a buried facility to this structure;

  5. Is this structure accounted for on my public or private locate reports; and

  6. Are there any marks on the ground for this structure and do they make sense?

Any above ground structure within a work area is usually there for a purpose. If you find a structure in your work area and it is not accounted for on your public or private locate reports, there is a good chance that it was either missed or the utility owner is not concerned that the work you are performing will interfere with their buried facility. You should never ignore your training or intuition if something doesn’t feel right or is unclear. It is so important that you always stop work and ask for clarification from someone that KNOWs before you excavate.

Once you understand utility infrastructure and how they work, everything makes sense and it is easy to put the puzzle pieces together. Allowing you to easily interpret the public and private locate reports for your work- Dig Safe.

KNOWing how buried infrastructure works and how to identify them is key for anyone involved in excavation activities, OWN Your Safety’s Utility Infrastructure Awareness course has an entire module on Utility Structures- Here are a few examples of some common structures. Can you answer each of the first 4 questions above with respect to each of these structures?

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