Why a special issue focused solely on locating utilities?

This special issue of Damage Prevention Professional was created because of my personal passion for damage prevention, my deep respect for these industry professionals and my desire to assist them in arriving home safe every night.

A locate technician is paid to locate and mark utilities buried underground. It is an important job since almost all of us depend on that buried infrastructure both at home and at work. The job of locating continues to expand in responsibility and difficulty as new technologies continue to emerge that make these locates more accurate and more efficient, but also require more skills.

As new technologies are released, locators continue to hone their skills in reading GPR data, incorporating GPS/GIS field mapping, sonde and RFID technology, acoustic or sonic methodology and more are being added all the time. Read about many of these new technologies within the pages of this publication.

The role of the locate technician continues to develop to the point that there are worldwide initiatives to create standards and certifications for these essential industry professionals. Standards and best practices influence every part of their job, from the color and shape of the mark they make to the speed at which they make them. See page 14 for an interesting comparison between what is being done is the US, Canada and Australia.

Here in the US, as our economy continues to improve, construction is growing. As local and federal initiatives to improve roads and update existing infrastructure increase, the demand for qualified utility locate technicians is growing rapidly and these individuals are finding themselves in high demand.

Locate technicians can be found working on city streets, state highways, residential neighborhoods, business
districts, airports, railroad terminals, military bases, inside manholes, across farmland, lakes, rivers, mountains and deserts. In fact, locate technicians are needed in just about every urban, suburban and rural setting  imagin-able. They are employed by utility companies, municipalities, contract locating companies, private locating firms, engineering firms and, more and more frequently, excavation companies.

Technicians face hazards in their job every day that most of us don’t even think about:
1. Inattentive drivers, as well as the technician’s own distraction with the job, may create a dangerous situation. Further, the technician can spend hours on the road each day driving from site to site – making vehicle accidents a significant source of on-the-job injuries.
2. Uneven surfaces, curbs, roots, snow and ice have all brought a technician somewhere crashing down to earth unexpectedly; sometimes with serious consequences.
3. Although walking, lifting, bending and squatting are all natural activities, the amount of these activities in a typical technician’s day can cause blisters, shin splints, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and muscle strain.
4. Bites and stings from bees, wasps, mosquitoes, spiders and ticks can be painful, irritating, inconvenient and sometimes fatal.
5. Working outdoors on active utility systems can put a technician at risk for skin injuries including cuts and scrapes, as well as exposure to poisonous and stinging plants.
6. Construction sites, a common area for a technician to work, are full of nails, staples, and other debris that can puncture a shoe and cause painful wounds.
7. Technicians are often required to work on private property and entering a dog’s defined space can be  dangerous and cause even the sweetest of pooches to react territorially.
8. Working outdoors in the summer can expose the technician to the threat of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, sun burn, and other weather-related maladies.
9. Branches and other eye hazards are often found on the paths technicians walk, as well as around access points like pedestals and meters. Blowing dust and debris can also be harmful to the eyes.
10. Underground utility vaults often contain a hazardous atmosphere and should never be entered without proper training and equipment.

The damage prevention industry cannot make the mistake of underestimating the value these unsung
heroes bring to the industry. Their hard work keeps our companies, our communities and our
workers safe. Locators everywhere – I salute you. I hope you find value in the articles and resources we
have compiled in your honor.

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