Excavation is often regarded as a high risk part of the construction process. However, if you pre-plan and follow the mandatory codes of practice, you can greatly reduce the risk.
One crucial part of the excavation process is determining the location of existing utilities. This usually happens before any dirt is turned and should be conducted by an experienced utility locating company that follows the Utility Providers Code of Practice.
What is the Utility Providers Code of Practice and why is it so important when excavating in Perth? Let’s dig a little deeper and explore the crucial elements of the code and how it can help you carry out a safe and risk-free excavation.
The pre-planning stage of excavation
You cannot underestimate the importance of pre-planning. This early stage of excavation is regarded as ‘high risk’ and requires an immense level of coordination between all parties involved. Employing an experienced utility location company will ensure communication is open and clear and that no step is missed. Your Utility Locator should first set out a plan which will:
- Investigate and gather all utility and relevant authority plans, as well as duty of care documents
- Contact utility providers for their safe digging practices
As many Perth building companies will admit, records of existing underground utilities aren’t always accurate, so it’s recommended to conduct a full utility location check. A utility locator will digitally map out the underground location of all existing utilities and, if required, can complete a vacuum excavation. If the location to be excavated is within an old Perth industrial area, the site could potentially contain toxic atmospheres from old gas pipes or fuel lines. All precautions should be taken in the pre-planning stage before moving forward. The second part of this high-risk stage is to obtain Clearance to Work, and Utility Notification permits.
Training and supervision while excavating
The Western Australian Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 was put in place to promote safe working conditions for all employees. One of the key points made within the act is the responsibility of the employer to provide training and supervision for employees and independent contractors. Training should help both employees, employers and contractors:
- Identify and manage risks of excavation
- Keep up with current practices to eliminate hazards and control risk
To help comply with the act, employers can look to contract utility location companies who carry the appropriate accreditations and will ensure that safe excavation processes are followed.
Competent supervision for excavation
It’s important to engage an experienced and competent team leader to supervise the excavation process. This person should be able to identify hazards and take effective action to eliminate any risk. Some potential situations a supervisor may have to assess include:
- An excavated site deeper than six metres
- Excavating next to ponded water
- Variable ground conditions
- Pressure on trench walls from excavated material
If hiring an external contractor to complete an excavation, including a vacuum excavation, be sure that they:
- Know how to identify and locate underground services
- Can identify hazards and manage risk associated with excavation
- Understand safe work practices
- Identify factors that affect safe excavation
- Have knowledge of the Occupational Safety and Health legislation
Your utility locator should also be Dial Before You Dig (DBYD) certified. Whether it is a company or a contractor completing the utility location they must have the necessary skills to locate and avoid damage to subsurface assets.
Ensure you comply with the Utilities Providers Code of Practice
As mentioned at the top of this article, complying with the Utility Providers Code of Practice is crucial to the excavation process. While we may have only touched on a few vital areas of the code, it is those initial stages that are the most important. Employing the services of an experienced utility locator at the beginning of your excavation project can help eliminate several possible risks.
If you want to ensure your excavation is complying with the code of practice, contact Abaxa. Our team of experts are highly competent in utility location and vacuum excavations and have all the necessary accreditations to carry out the job safely.
At Abaxa, we also employ our own safety protocol called the ‘3 Degrees of Safety System’. This system ensures that every precaution is taken to eliminate risk, reduce unnecessary costs and prevent project delays. Our assessment will outline the level of risk for your project – high, medium or low. Armed with this information you will have a clear understanding of potential hazards and can proceed to the next stage of your project with complete peace of mind.