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It has been my experience as a locator that when I followed the same steps during each locate and kept my truck organized, I was much more productive during my day and made far fewer mistakes. Although many locators may approach the task differently, I’d like to present seven fundamental steps for every locator to consider.
Step 1: Follow safety procedures and use your safety equipment and knowledge
Try to make the right choices and take a personal approach to your safety and the safety of those around you. You are ultimately responsible for your safety during the day while driving to and performing line locates. The choices you make on the jobsite will often not only affect your own safety but also have an impact on the safety of others. Start by identifying the hazards that exist or may exist on the jobsite and then choose the appropriate personal protective gear and equipment you will need to perform this task safely.
Step 2: Read ticket and check all prints before and after performing the locate
During the planning stages of the locate, thoroughly read your excavation notice to gain a clear understanding of the dig area. If you are unclear of the exact location of the dig site, contact the caller of the ticket for additional details. Access your area maps, prints and records for the dig area and identify your dig area on your prints. Determine the number, type and size of buried lines you have in the area, along with the location of the top side access point best suited for applying the transmitter to each buried metallic line or tracer wire. Prints should be considered a guide and not a fact. If your print shows that you have a line buried near the dig area but not in the dig area, it’s always a good idea to hook up and verify the line is actually clear.
Step 3: Visually survey the entire scope of work
A visual inspection of the jobsite is a very important step to ensuring that all of your lines located in the requested area are marked. Start by visually confirming the entire scope of work
on the locate ticket by doing a jobsite walk through. While on your walk through, confirm the location of access points you identified on your prints. Take a close look at the landscape to search for topographical clues of utility construction like trench lines, cracks, patches or cuts in the pavement. A good visual inspection can also help you identify other buried facilities
that may not have been documented
on your prints. Be on the lookout for any conditions that might affect the accuracy of your locate like chain
link fences, guard rails, guy wires and overhead lines that may interfere with your locatable signal. And, as always, be on the lookout for safety hazards or abnormal conditions that may impact your safety.
Step 4: Make a plan and work your plan
You should also consider establishing a pattern for locating and focus on locating one line at a time. I normally located several types of utilities on my jobsites but would completely locate each utility system before starting on the next system. Strategically deploy your signal transmitter and locate
one line at a time. When faced with a congested dig site or utility easement, deploy your transmitter away from the congestion and locate the line into the congested area.
Step 5: Trace, pinpoint and mark
Temporary markings placed on the job-site are nonverbal communication between the locator and the excavator with the color indicating the type of product flowing through the pipe or cable. Your temporary markings should clearly identify the estimated horizontal location and pathway of lines buried in
the dig area. Other valuable information you could provide with your location markings could include size of line, type of line or pipe material, as well as the number of lines in a single trench or conduit package and who owns the line.
Step 6: Double check and restore the site
Carpenters live by the golden rule to measure twice and cut once. As a line locator, it’s important to take another look at your locate ticket and prints
to make sure you’ve accounted for all lines buried on or near the jobsite to prevent a cut. When you’re satisfied that everything is accounted for, you should make sure that you’ve closed all lids, boxes or covers you may have opened during the job and have retrieved all of your tools and equipment.
Step 7: Document your work and communicate any high profile
I was once told by my supervisor
that if it wasn’t documented, it never happened. It is important to document anything and everything related to
the excavation notice. Many locating technicians take several pictures of their markings, as well as make written documentation of any changes relative to the excavation area shown on the locate request, any conversations with the excavator either on site or over
the phone and any other clarifications that relate to information shown on the dig notification. Many pipeline operators and utility operators require a representative be onsite when excavation is taking place near the critical line. If your situation warrants, notify the excavator that there is a critical line buried on their job site
and arrange a high profile meet. After arrangements are made, document the conversation to include the date and time the meeting will take place.
Following the same routine on each job can reduce the chances of error. The task of line locating involves much more than simply knowing how to operate an electronic line detector.
2023, Issue 4 Alabama 811 • 17

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