Hydro Excavation Safety Best Practices

- August 13, 2018

Hydro excavation when performed properly can be a safe and efficient alternative to traditional excavation methods or the use of hand tools to expose underground utilities.

As with any form of excavation work, it is important to follow all safety best practices to reduce the risk of injury to yourself and others.

To help keep yourself and others safe, here is a list of safety best practices for Hydro Excavation:

Prior to commencing work:

  1. Familiarise yourself with and abide by all national, state, and local rules and regulations. Rules and regulations provide guidance, they help keep yourself and others safe from any dangers, and help you make the right decisions.
  2. ‘Dial before you dig’. Before commencing any excavation work, you must obtain up-to-date underground utility locations. Dial Before You Dig is a FREE national referral service designed to assist in preventing damage and disruption to Australia’s vast infrastructure.
  3. Create a plan. Drawing up a plan, monitoring weather conditions, identifying hazards and assessing risks will help you to implement appropriate control measures and ensure you stay on track.
  4. If the excavation work is or involves high risk construction work, a person conducting a business or undertaking must prepare a SWMS (Safe Work Method Statement) before the high-risk construction work starts.
  5. Prepare an emergency plan. A definite plan to deal with major emergencies is an important element of OH&S programs. An emergency plan can provide guidance during an emergency and may also help bring to light deficiencies such as lack of resources (training and equipment), or items that can be rectified before an emergency occurs. If you or someone has been seriously injured at work, please dial 000.
  6. Ensure your equipment is designed specifically for hydro excavation. All equipment must be purchased from a reputable supplier that specialises in high quality hydro excavation equipment.
  7. Always read all equipment manuals prior to operation. If you are unsure of anything, always consult with the equipment supplier prior to operation to avoid injury or damage to equipment.
  8. Training is a must. Ensure you do not handle or operate any equipment unless you have received proper training.

When performing hydro excavation work:

  1. Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at all times. These include safety non-slip footwear, hearing protection, high visibility and protective clothing, safety glasses, hard hats, gloves, and respiratory protection.
  2. Select the smallest nozzle size appropriate for the job. Using a smaller nozzle size with less flow and lowering pressure settings in the presence of underground utilities, are critical safety precautions.
  3. Do not point nozzles at people or animals. Serious injury can result from the high-pressure generated by the nozzles.
  4. Maintain a distance of at least 8” (20cm) between the nozzle and utility or subsoil. The nozzle should never be inserted into the soil.
  5. Do not use zero-degree, static nozzles in the presence of utilities.
  6. When in 18” (46cm) of utilities, turn down pressure and use the nozzle to ‘wash down’ the utility, not to blast.

For more information on workplace safety please visit the Safe Work Australia website.