Utility Damage Prevention Saves Lives
Electric Conduit Construction (ECC) has always set a high standard for safe and responsible excavating. With that, comes the responsibility for every crew to perform, to that standard, on every project. This is a commitment, made by our leadership team, and is ingrained into our company culture at every level. It has taken time to achieve, but it is a commitment made to protect our crews, the public and all underground utility assets.
Except for electrical power and telecommunications, most people expect their utilities to be located underground. No one would want gas, sewer, and water lines above ground. In fact, newer developments place all utilities underground, and on major urban centers even high voltage transmission lines are buried.
Striking one of these utilities can result in a range of outcomes, from inconvenience to death. A damaged fiber of telephone cable means that the user cannot communicate. A cross bore through a sanitary sewer, penetrating a gas main or electric power cable can result in a structure explosion or electrocution. Anyone digging in the ground should be aware of the hazards and call for locates. Electric Conduit Construction and all underground contractors, likewise, must have utilities located before any digging commences. But locates are not the complete answer for avoiding utility strikes.
The amount of underground utility congestion is so great that even professional locators can make mistakes and miss utilities. This places our crews and our company in a situation where injury and damage could occur if we believed implicitly in the locator’s marks.
Unmarked & mismarked utilities
In June 2022 ECC has had 13 mismarked or unmarked utilities. Despite this we have had no strikes, damages, or injuries. This is the result of our workforce:
- Following ECC’s rigorous utility damage prevention protocols
- Taking recurring safety & utility damage prevention training
- Understanding the expectations our company has set to meet our target of zero damages.
- On the job supervision and peer checking
Then there are the intangibles, like a sense of duty to remain skeptical and question all utility marks. Taking on the responsibility for preventing utility strikes by verifying that every structure on the line-of-lay has all utility services marked. Then pot holing to expose, identify and measure the depth of each utility. It has been said that preparation is everything. Only after all these steps are complete can excavation and drilling begin.
We have chosen a few actual events as examples of how ECC’s extensive crew training, company commitment and preparation can help to avoid injury and prevent utility damages.
On June 2nd, 2022, at 0945 an ECC crew comprised of Matt Smith (Foreman) and Tommy Lamantia (Laborer) Derrel Pierce (Laborer) and Matt Worden (Operator) were walking down a job site prior to setting up for a horizontal directional drill in Elk Grove Village, IL. A portion of their bore path crossed through an area with heavy vegetation and while traversing that area, they located a hand hole with no utility marks around it. The crew immediately called the locator back to the job site and found out there were communication lines that were missed in the initial locating. This good catch by the crew reminds us of the importance of a complete job site walk down. The crew performing the work is often the last line of defense when it comes to catching incomplete locates.
On Jun 14th, 2022, at approximately 1100 hours a 5-man Horizontal Directional Drilling crew comprised of Adam Flondor (Foreman) Rey Martinez (Groundman) David Martinez (Operator) Mike King (Groundman) and Ethan Jendrzejczyk (Groundman) were using hydro-vacuum excavation method to dig their entry and exit pits for 6” conduit install, as well as potholing existing utilities that would be impacting their bore shot. During the hydro excavation process the crew uncovered 6 unidentified utilities in various locations that were not located or were not identified. The crew called for additional locate assistance and the locator was able to confirm 4 of the 6 were cut off and abandoned. The ECC crew were skeptical and used a questioning attitude to stop work and call AT&T and Nicor Gas to confirm if the conduit and a 4” plastic Gas main were live or dead. Both were determined to be live and needed to be marked out by the locator. This event really underscores the importance of excavating crews having a questioning attitude, stopping when unsure, and taking the time to ensure all utilities are identified prior to proceeding with the unground work. Doing so in this case, prevented not only damage, but the possibility of severe injury if the gas main had been breached and ignition occurred.
On June 27th, 2022 at approximately 0845 hours a 3 man HDD crew comprised of Ken Sanford (Foreman), Matt Herald (Laborer) and Richard Shouse (Operator) were attempting to pothole gas services and were having difficulty spotting them. They cleared the 24” tolerance zone and still hadn’t located the services in question. The crew could have legally proceeded with the bore but knowing that a very dangerous situation would have been created had they struck them, they stood down and called USIC and Peoples gas for additional locate assistance. Measuring off the gas meters at the residences and speaking with the homeowners they were able to extend their potholes and find the utilities. One was 36” outside of the tolerance zone and the other was 24” outside of the tolerance zone. This was a great job of remaining skeptical, using a questioning attitude and continuing the search to locate these services and avoid a utility hit.
These are only a few examples to underscore the challenges and dangers our crews face each day. Locators and excavators have their plates full, particularly in the summer season and we need to work together to prevent negative outcomes. Our excavating crews, leaning on their training and questioning attitudes, are truly the last line of defense in damage prevention. ECC is proud of the accomplishments of our crews, we recognize their efforts and truly appreciate that they place the highest priority on preventing utility damage events. We will continue to target zero damages in our daily company operations and will rely on our experts in the field to achieve our goals.
About Electric Conduit Construction
ECC is a 60-year-old, employee owned, aerial and underground utility contractor. Specialties include directional drilling for power and fiber; Aerial and underground fiber installation including splicing, testing and termination; Emergency call out for fiber and distribution storm repair work; Open-cut placement of power and fiber cables; Small project construction, including permit acquisition, project management, and cell testing.
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