In last week’s web log, I passed along information about the International Risk Management Institute Inc. (IRMI) and the wealth of risk and safety information available through it, passing along the institute’s explanation of the 811—Know What’s Below, Call Before You Dig system.
Allow me then to point you again at IRMI’s website with further examples of the wealth of information you’ll find there…here again on underground construction.
More Tips—Some Best Practices
To avoid construction accidents, it’s important to follow construction best practices. Below are a few tips.
Install temporary warnings—It is very common for a contractor to install utilities on its new project and dig them up again when it plants that final tree or installs the sprinkler systems. Many contractors are now planting signs when new utilities are installed.
Eliminate the threat forever—When a project entails working over buried utilities, encourage the owner to have those lines rerouted before construction so site operation does not disrupt them. The added benefit is that if there are any further excavations on the site—from planting of replacement trees to installing the flagpole the president wanted—you know you have removed those underground hazards, thus protecting both your people and business continuity.
Free 811 training—Take advantage of the free training that your local 811 provider gives. It is a great tool, for they will often travel to your firm to do the training, and most host a quarterly meeting of the local utility owners, those that do the markings, and excavators. Those presenting are truly experts, and they will do anything to help keep you from damaging their underground facilities.
Realize that lines aren’t always linear—Buried lines do not run in straight lines. That is why they are marked out well past both sides of where they may lie. If you are near a utility line or crossing one, take the time to dig by hand (that is the law) and expose them occasionally to make sure you know where they are. Also, when subcontractors install lines for a utility, they may be paid by the foot, so crafty contractors will loop the line as often as possible since additional footage equals additional profit.
Recognize the danger: propane versus natural gas—We have met the enemy, and it is indifference. “That’s what insurance is for!” This was the reply of a superintendent who was asked why he strayed well outside his work area and dug along a gas line for a house. The Underground Casino had provided a favor, and the line had not separated from the meter (when the edge of the excavation failed) and filled the house with gas.
Note: Often, you will hear of a house “demolished” in the midst of a neighborhood and “the source of the explosion is suspected as natural gas.” When natural gas escapes from its lines, it is lighter than air and will fill the house from the attic to the basement. When there is enough in the air to ignite, and the pilot light on the water heater meets it, a gas must expand, and a house cannot, so it is destroyed, often with no fire.
When a buried propane line is hit, the gas will travel downhill until it finds something to ignite it. This may be a town (Gilboa, NY, for example) or a campsite along the creek the pipe crossed. Does this happen often?
Everyone must understand, respect, and fear what is underground. Consider an example. A new underground propane system was installed on a Thursday in a summer home in Upstate New York. The occupant was not home, for he was what we call “a weekender.” The investigation showed that when he did arrive later Friday afternoon, he entered the house, hit the lights for the kitchen, and the spark from that switch ignited the gas that had been accumulating from the leaking new line. This gas had traveled along the new trench line through the foundation into the cellar.
Remember, propane is heavier than air. It first filled the basement and then entered the first floor. Investigators found that the house had been lifted and moved off the entire foundation. Portions of the house were found a quarter of a mile away. The deceased occupant appeared uninjured, but every bone in his body had been broken.
Pay Close Attention to the Initial Call
The safety professional has a great tool when investigating a utility strike—the initial call.
“We just hit a gas line, but it’s only low pressure.”
“We hit a gas line, but it’s blowing, not burning.”
“We hit a gas line, but just bumped it; it’s not leaking.”
How the notification is made indicates at least the level of concern by the caller, but also the caller’s level of understanding. In the case of a gas, steam, or electric strike, those involved should be scared to death. When any gas line is struck (plastic or steel), as the gas flows it will create a static charge similar to rubbing a balloon. Just because the gas is flowing does not mean all is well. There is no indication of what will happen the next second.
Upcoming Forester University Webinars
March 8th, 2012
Reducing Energy, Water, and Tax Bills for Facilities
Are you overpaying on your facility’s three largest variable costs: energy, water, and taxes? Join Fraser Allport, CEO, to explore how to reduce your facility’s utility and tax bills and future-proof for sustained performance by combing green technologies (green hardware and smart software) with government tax incentives in a cost-reduction action plan designed to obtain, quantifiable and sustainable resource and cost-savings results. Read more…
March 15th, 2012
for Surface Water Quality
Constantly influenced by natural eutrophication, direct human impact, and a changing climate, surface water is a scarce natural resource needing effective protection. Join Shahram (Shane) Missaghi to explore the function and benefits of BMPs in protecting surface water, and examine three key criteria to insure their successful implementation: water, soil, and climate Read more...
March 22nd, 2012
5 Proven Social Media Tactics to Engage Your Audience
Extend your outreach and campaign effectiveness with social media. Join Erica Hooper, Strategic Director at S. Groner Associates, to explore social media's (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) opportunities, myths, and real-world tested and proven social media tactics designed to engage your audience. Read more…