Vac Safety on the HDD Jobsite
Here Are Some Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Traditional methods of excavation to locate underground utilities can be dangerous to the environment, as well as equipment operators. Utilizing dedicated hydro excavation equipment has proven to be the best method for locating, as operators are able to physically see all underground infrastructure that may be in the path of their project.
With the growth of hydro excavation and despite training and guidelines being set in place, accidents still occur. Experienced operators are constantly mindful of jobsite hazards and have shared a list of common mistakes and how they can be avoided, reducing the number of jobsite accidents.
Parking Too Close to the Dig Site:
When vacuum excavating or horizontal directional drilling (HDD), be sure to park heavy machinery a safe distance. Oftentimes, the ground fails due to overall weight and vibration of truck, which can cause the truck, the operator, or both to fall into the hole. For reasons like this, the size and weight of the excavation unit are often important factors to consider before even setting out to begin work. Making sure you have the right equipment for the job and environment is key to efficient worksite safety, which is why most manufacturers, such as RAMVAC, offer various machines of different sizes and capabilities because they understand that there is no such thing as a true “one-size-fits-all” solution in utility locating.
Lack of a Spotter:
Not using a spotter can lead to striking overhead obstacles with the vacuum boom. Hitting powerlines can send voltage to the chassis, damaging computers or worse, electrocuting operators. Know your overhead clearance so as not to hit a bridge or powerlines when working the vacuum excavator boom. Utilizing a wireless remote for boom operation allows operators to keep their eyes on the boom while moving, ensuring complete visibility whenever the boom is in motion.
Using Broken or Worn Tools:
Operators who are pressed for time may feel compelled to use inadequate tools to save time or cut corners. This should always be discouraged, as using tools and equipment for unintended purposes, or continuing to use tools that are worn down and broken increases risk of equipment failure, jeopardizing the safety of the operators and others. Regular inspection and replacement of tools and equipment goes a long way to ensuring operators wellbeing and productivity. Reputable, licensed online parts dealers like www.sewershop.com offer repair parts and replacement accessories to keep operators in action with safe and affordable solutions.
Experienced Operator Complacency:
Skilled or veteran operators may find themselves becoming more relaxed as they grow familiar with the machine or jobs. Complacency causes accidents, and lax expectations can cause operators to miss vital steps or ignore potential hazards. Operators who are careful and mindful of their surroundings are less apt to damage utilities, equipment, or harm others on accident.
Ignoring the Limitations and Capabilities of Your Equipment:
Understanding the maximum capacities and functions of your machine is key to success and preventing accidents. For example, a common issue is operators overloading the debris tanks, causing the entire truck to be overweight on the road. Manufacturers, such as RAMVAC, understand that operators may often have their attention divided at jobsites, offering equipment features like an audible debris tank level which sound an audible alarm when the debris tank has reached a set capacity, which allows operators to ensure they are maintaining a legal load weight without having to distract them from the task at hand. On the other side of the spectrum, while some operators overestimate their machines, underestimating the power behind them can be even more dangerous; you must make sure the suction does not get a hold of you. Avoid going into holes that are too deep without proper shoring or a trench box. Being mindful of the capacity, dimensions, and capabilities of your machine is vital to operate under safe conditions.
Not Having Proper PPE:
Each job has different requirements and hazards. While it might be common sense to wear high-vis clothing, gloves, glasses and hard hats, it is a life risking chance to not have a gas detector on jobs where it is required. Always ensure you know what equipment and tools are necessary, and have the correct PPE required for the job you are doing.
Leaving the Jobsite in a Hurry:
Operators should be certain to clean up the jobsite and prepare their vehicle for transportation. For example, ensuring the boom is in the cradle prior to driving down the road to avoid hitting overhead items is one of the many things each operator should do to protect themselves and their equipment. Rushing to leave jobsites can also lead to things like losing tools, remotes, and other accessories that can be hazardous to others, as well as expensive to replace.
Lack of Winterization Procedures:
As the weather turns colder and temperatures drop below freezing, it is vital to winterize your vacuum excavator every day during cold weather applications. If this is not done every day prior to leaving the truck for the night, water components can freeze (even in an enclosed building), causing major damage and high replacement costs. Certain manufacturers, such as RAMVAC, offer built-in antifreeze recirculation systems to offer additional protection to vulnerable water systems for both overnight or long-term storage and traveling between job sites.
At the end of the day, mistakes and accidents happen because operators often feel stressed for time and increased efficiency but having the right machine and an understanding of basic safety can make all the difference.
Tags: September/October 2021 Print Issue, Vacuum Excavation
Ashley Stuart is marketing manager at Sewer Equipment/RAMVAC, a NUCA Sustaining National Partner. This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Trenchless Technology magazine.