By Ketha Molina

Damage Prevention Manager

Texas 811

Every day before our work begins, we should go through some type of process to evaluate the work for the day as well as the associated hazards. This process can include a self-check as well as a work area inspection and inspection of tools or equipment. During this process a main objective should be identifying hazards so that you can take steps to eliminate or mitigate the hazards found. One useful question to ask yourself before a work task begins is, “What can hurt me?

Sure, it may seem dark and negative to ask yourself this right as your workday begins or when starting a new work task, but it can make a difference in recognizing the hazards that could injure you or someone else that day. Asking this question should trigger you to stop and really look around your work area and consider what dangers you are dealing with.

Take for instance a planned excavation, you should ask yourself:

  • Is there an active one call?
  • Did I wait 48 hours?
  • Did every utility respond, is it really safe to dig?
  • Do I know what’s underground?

Identifying uncontrolled hazards includes calling 811 for a One Call ticket before excavation. Your life and the lives of others depend on it.

Let’s dispel a few negative perceptions regarding damage prevention.

“My responsibility for damage prevention ends when I call 811. If something happens 811 is liable.”

Wrong. 811 does not locate lines. They coordinate with utilities and their locating to have the area located.

“No marks = no utilities”

Wrong. If there are no marks, this could mean it has not been located yet. Positive response systems are a way to verify. Mitigating a hazard like evidence of an unmarked facility could be calling back in for locator or stopping work if they encounter an underground line. Making a second call is important.

“Depths of utilities can be assumed.”

Wrong. Locator depths are approximate. Depths of utilities cannot be assumed. Utilities must be exposed to determine depth. A predictable hazard is a mislocate or failure to locate. The only way to assess that is to determine the precise location by daylighting down to and under the pipe

“This [damage or injury] can’t happen to me.”

Wrong. The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) reports that a line is hit every six minutes. Some crews are lucky, complete the project with neither injury nor incident. However, many have faced severe injury, expensive repair costs, outages and tragically some literally do not live to see another day.

Identifying hazards and following processes is not worth much if you do not see to it that they are properly addressed and completed. Take the time and energy to properly mitigate the hazard so not only will you be unaffected by it, but neither will your coworkers.

While a positive mindset and attitude are important for success in the workplace, asking yourself critical questions such as “What can hurt me today?” can trigger you take the extra time to really evaluate a task. Every crew needs to have tailgate meeting while onsite before starting the job. Take ownership of hazards in your work area and see to it that they get fixed. After all, you never know what safeguard or action may make the difference in preventing an injury or death.

For more information on damage prevention and the one call process, please log on to the TX811 website.