Page 18 - WV811 2022 issue 4
P. 18

Locator Safety
Locator Safety and Appreciation Week is always the last full week in April. It may be that you didn’t know it existed or forgot about it. But for sure few folks outside the locating community talk about locator safety. Instead, we focus on excavation safety because this industry’s purpose is to prevent damages to underground facilities and that’s important. But let’s take just a moment to see how dangerous locating can be. Locators often encounter the most hazards at dig sites, especially at emergency locate request sites.
The locator is summoned to emergency dig sites to mark underground facilities in an area where there is currently an emergency situation. Locators must approach the emergency area with extreme caution. While the sky is not falling, power or telephone poles could be! They might also be driving into explosive atmospheres or the ground could be collapsing around them.
Here are 10 circumstances locators face every day, not related to an emergency situation:
1. Confined spaces
2. Threats to the eye
3. Climate and weather fluctuations
4. Dog bites
5. Punctures and foot trauma
6. Poison Ivy and other skin threats
7. Insect bites and stings
8. Walking, lifting, bending and squatting
9. Slips, trips and falls
10. Time on the road
Taxi drivers travel to many different locations every day, picking up and dropping off people, and no doubt, it is a stressful job. Locators sometimes visit 30-50 different dig sites in one day and they are not picking up and dropping off people. They must get to the dig site, park safely, avoid the
10 hazards listed above, review their mapping systems, safely connect their equipment, avoid traffic, and actually determine the location of the underground facility with the signal from the machine coupled with their knowledge, skill and abilities and then mark the location with either paint, flags stakes or whiskers. Whew! That’s a lot to accomplish for just one dig site. These locators do this every day, dig site after dig site. I’d bet if someone followed one of them around with a camera, we would see many more threats that have not even been mentioned.
I realize most of the time when locators are in the conversation of other stakeholders, it is a discussion that involves late locates, mismarked utility lines and understaffed companies. As a result of such discussions, the excavating community,
and the underground facility owners themselves seem to underappreciate locators as a whole, and seemingly, very few people are thankful for what they do. Locators are the front line of defense against utility damages and their job is not easy. So, the next time you see a locator at your job site, help him to be safe, and by all means, thank him for his damage prevention efforts because if he’s there, he’s trying to take care of you by protecting that underground utility line.
  16 • West Virginia 811
2022, Issue 4

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