By Vogel Bros. Safety Department

Plan your dig, then dig your plan.

This basic rule of excavation is a great reminder for anyone, whether at work or at home. The focus of April’s National Safe Digging Month is to remind people to plan ahead before digging or excavating because doing so will help prevent injuries, property damage, and utility outages.

Vogel Bros. believes all jobsite accidents are preventable. Preparing our employees for potentially hazardous conditions reflects this fundamental belief. Prior to construction starting on the job site, project teams plan the job’s schedule, goals, risks, and potential safety challenges. The purpose of pre-construction planning is to be prepared for possible challenges and ensure each team member understands their role and responsibilities to help make the project a success.

As a key member of the planning team, the Safety Department brings expertise and experience to identify risks and challenges that could hinder the prevention of all jobsite accidents. Excavating remains one of the most dangerous and consistent challenges our jobsites face. To plan and prepare for these hazards, we use the following tools and resources:

  • Training: Vogel Bros. conducts trenching and excavation training for all field staff, and competent person training for project leadership.
  • National Stand Down Week: Vogel Bros. participates in the annual National Utility Contractor’s Association’s (NUCA) Trench Safety Stand Down each June. A Safety Stand Down pauses work activities so we can address everyone on the job site (employees, subcontractors, vendors, and owner’s representatives) about working safely when exposed to trenching and excavation hazards.
  • 811 Technology: 811 One Call (also referred to as Digger’s Hotline) is a free service with call centers in each state. But despite what the name implies, they’re no longer only available by phone. Many states (including Florida and Wisconsin) now have online portals and mobile-friendly sites that contractors can use to submit their dig requests.

Digging and excavation hazards don’t exist only on construction job sites; they exist at home, too. Did you know that there are more than 20 million miles of underground utilities in the United States, and that many utilities are buried just a few inches below ground? You can easily hit a line when digging for simple gardening projects, or installing mailboxes and fences. Unfortunately, homeowners often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should plan for their dig, and they fail to call 811.

It’s not just adults who are at risk; kids are at risk as well. Have you ever noticed how kids enjoy digging as deep as they can in sandboxes and gardens? While it may seem like a harmless pastime, are you certain there are no utilities in the area they’re digging? Be sure to talk to your kids about the dangers of digging, too. To add fun to your discussion, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has an annual 811 Poster Contest to encourage families to talk with their kids about the hazards associated with digging and excavating. (NOTE: Deadline for this year’s contest entries is April 26, 2019.)

Safe digging is everyone’s responsibility. So whether you’re at work or at home: plan your dig then dig your plan.