Locating – It’s not a Contest

It’s not a CONTEST

For several years in the early 2000s I had the pleasure of volunteering with the International Locate Rodeo. It was always very gratifying to see locate technicians from all over the country come together to compete with one another in celebration of what is an often under-appreciated trade.

Reflecting the environment of real world locating, the Locate Rodeo emphasized safety while challenging competitors to locate as accurately as possible under the pressure of a ticking clock. While it was fun to be a spectator at the event, it could be a nerve-wracking crucible to even the most experienced of competitors.

As much as the rodeo attempted to mimic real-world locating though, the facilities were always able to be located by electromagnetic induction within the time allowed, and the only penalty for getting it wrong was wounded pride.

The real world is not so orderly. Many, many facilities resist accurate detection through electromagnetic induction for a whole host of reasons from obvious to obscure, and the penalty for a failed locate can be immense. Never mind the background noise of the ever-present clock, ticking away the seconds to failure.

It is in these moments of real-world stress that I would offer locating technicians the following words of comfort, “it’s not a contest.” There are no winners and losers, and you can stop the clock whenever you want.

The pressure and anxiety a technician sometimes can feel on a job site comes from forgetting that there might not be a right answer.”

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The pressure and anxiety a technician sometimes can feel on a job site comes from forgetting that there may not be a right answer. The utility they are trying to find may not be able to be located by electromagnetic induction within the allocated time. Sometimes the game is rigged, and to realize that gives a technician the power to forfeit with their pride intact.

The key for locating technicians is to remember that they are not actually in the locating business; they are in the damage prevention business. And sometimes preventing damages means throwing in the towel on a locate. Electromagnetic induction may not be the right tool for the job. The excavation may not be able to commence when the digger wants. An alternate plan may need to be made.

Damage prevention sometimes means recognizing the limits of what is possible. That is okay. It’s not a contest.

Christopher Koch is a training consultant and President of ZoneOne Locating. He is past president of Nulca and worked on both the 2009 and 2015 revisions to the Nulca Professional Competency Standard. He can be reached by email at Christopherkoch@live.com or on Twitter @kochauthor.

THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR. dp-PRO WELCOMES AND ENCOURAGES ARTICLES AND CORRESPONDENCE FROM ALL POINTS OF VIEW.

 

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