Using a directional drill, auger, or other form of trenchless technology is like threading a large needle through a maze of existing underground utilities—while blindfolded! Subterranean smarts and safe drilling practices are keys to success.
Calling 811 before you dig is always essential, but you’ve got to take it a step further when you use trenchless technology:
- Inform the 811 operator about your equipment. The sooner you call, and the more specific you can be, the better they will understand your needs and provide the most accurate information about existing utilities.
- Request locator marks be placed close together. This will help you plan for the possibility that an existing utility path might turn unexpectedly.
- Consider soil conditions. Many factors, including sandy soil or a shallow water table, will affect the depth at which you can safely drill without cave-in worries.
Safe Drilling Practices
Take these steps during your drilling activities to confirm the location of marked utility lines and stay a safe distance away from them:
- Dig potholes and visually monitor your bore head as you cross each buried utility.
- Keep a safe distance. Stay at least three feet away from marked utilities. Watch the drill head cross utility lines during the initial bore and also during backreaming to ensure you maintain this minimum clearance.
- Calibrate. Be sure to calibrate your bore head and locating device before every job.
- Don't forget the backream. Remember, your locating device will monitor the bore head on the pilot pass, but may not be able to monitor the backream head. Plan accordingly if you have to expand the diameter of your bore before installation, and always observe the bore when crossing a buried facility during the backream.
Additional digging guidelines, case studies, instructional videos, and training tools can all be found, at no charge to you, on PECO’s e-SMARTworkers website.
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