The transition into summer has many of our members enjoying the outdoors and tackling those elusive outdoor projects on their honey-do lists. However, a change of season is no excuse for members to let electrical safety go by the wayside. Under backyards and back forties are labyrinths of wires, pipes and utility lines that bring in modern amenities to our homes, farms and businesses. One misplaced scoop from an excavator or a slice from a shovel could cause serious damage to you and your property. Before breaking the earth, be sure to get the dirt on what lies below.
Plotting Out a Plan
One of the easiest ways to avoid finding yourself in a precarious position is do your research and get to know the details of your property. How do you heat and cool your home/business? Do you have gas or electric appliances? Do you have a sewage line or a septic system? A great place to start is by referencing the blueprints or build notes of your home/business. These documents may include the location of utility and communication hookups and shed some light on where the lines used for these services are located. If you haven’t the access to these documents your next step may be to do some investigating. Take inventory on the type appliances you own and check basements, crawl spaces and backyards for meters or hookups. Tools like Kansas One Call are also available to gain some valuable information. These types of services contact local utilities, who in turn send out representatives to come and mark the location of underground utility lines. This service is free to all and can be accessed with a simple call to 811.
“We are always happy to help out and hope that our members take advantage of these types of services,” said Pioneer Electric’s Safety and Compliance Specialist Mike Salsbury. “Due to the type of soil we have in our area, it’s important to have someone check the location of lines. Even if you have an idea of where a line is located, erosion and dirt moved from previous projects can bury or reveal underground lines.”
Once you’ve established what’s below the ground, it’s important to make sure you have the proper tools for your project. There are many great resources available online and at your local building supplier that outlines all equipment needed to get a job done. If you need to rent a larger piece of equipment (a trencher, front loader, auger or excavator) make sure you are aware of all safety information concerning its usage. Improper use or the use of the wrong piece of machinery could put your project on hold, cause serious damage to you or your property and burn away money from your budget.
Seven Shades of Safety
The American Public Works Association suggests that surveyors use fl ags and spray paint to mark the location of underground utility lines. The color used helps identify the type of line in that area. These colors should be easily distinguishable and visible to all working on the project.
Red: Electrical lines, connections and hookups
Blue: Potable water lines
Orange: Telecommunications lines and alarm systems
Yellow: Petroleum, gas, propane and oil lines
White: Proposed excavation site
Green: Sewage and drainage lines
Purple: Reclaimed water, slurry and irrigation lines
If you are unsure of what a specific color or marking means, just ask. A surveyor will be able to give you the information you will need before you start a project.
Dealing with Accidents:
If an accident does occur; it is important to stop work immediately, evacuate the work site and remain cautious. First, alert your local utility and emergency responders and explain the situation. Be sure to share how the line was damaged and the type of line damaged. Keep others away from the site until cleared by the utility worker or first responder. Depending on the type of line hit, you will need to adjust your plan accordingly in order to remain safe.
Telecommunications Lines: In damaging a telecommunications line, it is important to stop work immediately and to secure the area for public safety. Do not examine, stare into or attempt to move the broken cable. Notify your telecommunications provider of the accident and wait until they give the clear before resuming work at the site.
Natural Gas, Petroleum and Propane Lines: In hitting a gas, petroleum or propane line you need to alert everyone on the premises to evacuate the area. Don’t do anything that could potentially cause a spark and try to stay upwind of blowing gas. Keep public and traffic away from the surrounding area and wait until the worksite is cleared by a utility worker. If you notice a fire, do not try to extinguish it, unless there is threat to a life and you have the proper training to address it.
Electrical Lines: Much like their overhead counterparts, underground electrical lines should be treated as if they are still energized once damaged. Stop work immediately and warn all in the vicinity that the ground and objects near the line may be energized. If you are on a large piece of equipment, remain on it. Contact Pioneer Electric by calling 888-551-4140 and alert them of the situation. Once the site has been cleared by the cooperative employee, you may evacuate the equipment and move to a safe area away from the contact site. If you must evacuate the equipment due to threat of fire or explosion, jump off the equipment and land with both feet together. Then move a safe distance away (at least 30 feet) from the site by either shuffling in short steps or by using short hops. While moving, take small bunny-hops while keeping both feet together at all times.
Your safety is of the upmost importance to us at Pioneer Electric. We hope that you take time to do a little research before your next outdoor project, whether that’s building upward or digging underground.