Excavation Safety

Excavation safety key strength of Badger excavators

Badger Provides An Alternative To Underground Utility Damage And Lost-Time Accidents

“Safety” is not a buzzword and Damage Prevention is not a fad. These are critical issues, and they are especially important when considering the incredible amount of work that is done around buried pipelines and utilities. Every single day incidents occur that leave utilities damaged, property destroyed, and sometimes, lives lost. Most companies who work around buried facilities fully understand the risks involved. But solutions are not always simple. The challenge faced by most contractors and facility owners is: How does one work safely in today’s congested underground – while remaining both efficient and productive?

The hydrovac excavation solution

Badger is one solution changing the way companies approach the dangers of underground construction. Vacuum excavation is becoming an increasingly common sight on utility install and maintenance projects, as are the terms “potholing” and “daylighting”. Like the Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) industry several years ago, awareness of the technology has slowly given way to adoption into everyday practices. Major telecom, railway and pipeline companies are even beginning to specify right from the engineering phase that contractors must vacuum excavate all utility crossings prior to installation of their lines.

The hydro-excavation process safely exposes buried utility lines to daylight – hence the term “daylighting”. Beneath the soil lays a complete maze of facilities carrying petroleum products, electricity, water, wastewater, natural gas, and communications. Depending on the conditions, Badgers use pressurized hot or cold water to break up the soil cover. As the ground is precisely excavated, a powerful vacuum system simultaneously removes the debris and pulls it into a large capacity storage tank onboard the truck. Once the hole is complete and the facilities are either seen or serviced, the dig site can now be restored to its original state.

Underground safety issues

There are numerous safety concerns that Badger addresses. Traditional mechanical excavation has the potential to damage utilities and disrupt essential services. Utility damages occur for many reasons including operator error, mismarked or unmarked surface locates, the unknown presence of multiple lines found below a single surface mark, and occasionally, the obvious negligence of proper construction procedures.

Besides damages to utilities, the other main concern during underground construction is the safety of personnel and the public. Even companies who take the time and effort to hand dig around buried utilities are exposed to certain risks. These can include repetitive strain injuries, back injuries, and even fatalities from trench excavation cave-ins, not to mention the potential damage of shovels and probes on coatings and lines. Nicks to pipeline or cable coatings will lead to eventual corrosion or integrity failure on most types of facilities. This in turn leads to the need for unnecessary subsequent excavations to repair those faults. The use of Badger can greatly reduce costly repairs, fines and judgements that arise from injuries, fatalities, and lost time accidents.

When using the right procedures, safe operating pressures and equipment, Badger can be effectively used for live line excavations. Done correctly, the process is safe for exposing all types of sensitive utilities including plastic or PVC pipe, electrical lines, and soft-coated piping. Badgers are a viable alternative to decommissioning lines, which itself is a safety precaution that many companies are negligent in performing.

Electrical Safety

Hydrovacs have been recognized as a safe alternative to hand-exposing by several safety conscious organizations including Alberta Occupational Health & Safety and the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board. In Ontario, the Electrical Distributors Association (EDA) and the Fuels Safety Division of the Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA), have acknowledged that hydrovacs may be used to locate and expose buried underground facilities as an alternative to hand equipment and tools.

Ontario’s Ministry of Labour has acknowledged that the Badger Hydrovac System provides the worker a level of protection as good as, or greater than, that afforded by hand digging.

Badger Daylighting, with assistance from TransAlta Utilities Training School in Alberta, has developed equipotential bonding and grounding procedures, which have been reviewed by several municipal utilities and electrical and utility safety associations (for example, those in Ontario and the USA). Badger will continue to improve our electrical safety procedures and will always be open to recommendations and input.

In addition to Badger’s operating efficiencies, fulltime Safety Advisors have enhanced our safety program. We have developed the most comprehensive safety program and manual in the hydrovac industry. Our commitment to safety has lead to reducing the occurrence of onsite incidents.

Advancement of excavation technology

Hydro-excavation is not a new concept. The technology has been in use for years in the petroleum industry where hydrovacs are often used exclusively for digging around high-pressure pipelines in congested refineries and facilities. Because of the extreme nature of petroleum work, the most powerful hydrovacs have evolved to the point where they can move large volumes of earth very quickly, even in the most difficult conditions.