What Are Locates in Construction: A Comprehensive Guide

June 12, 2024

When planning construction and excavation projects, even seasoned contractors can sometimes overlook the significance of subsurface utilities and other buried materials. However, identifying these elements is crucial for creating a safe work environment and ensuring that the project remains on budget and on schedule. Below are the main points to consider when working with a private utility locator.


Identifying Private Utilities

Before embarking on any digging or drilling activities, it's vital to determine what lies beneath the surface. This applies to commercial, industrial, and residential projects alike. While "call before you dig" services can identify public utilities, they do not locate private underground utilities. To ensure comprehensive detection, contracting with a private utility locator is essential.

Examples of Private Underground Utilities

  • Septic Systems: Advance knowledge of where these systems are located can prevent contamination risks.
  • Sprinkler and Irrigation Lines: Identifying these can avoid damage to landscaping.
  • Exterior Electrical Lines: Awareness of these lines is vital for preventing electrical hazards.
  • Internet Cables and Fiber Optics: Damage to these can result in disruptions and costly repairs.
  • Gas Mains: These pose significant safety hazards if breached.

"2007.08 - 'A view over the walking-path aside' of the construction pit of the subway tunnel alongside the canal; with rolling work platform; location on the North side of Amsterdam; Dutch city photo + geotag, Fons Heijnsbroek, The Netherlands" by Amsterdam free photos & pictures of the Dutch city is marked with CC0 1.0. To view the terms, visit https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/.

Steps a Private Utility Locator Takes

Site Assessment

Upon scheduling a visit from a private utility locator, the first action is to conduct a comprehensive site assessment. If conditions are favorable, the locator will use specialized equipment like ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and other scanning tools to detect all buried utilities. The precise locations are then marked out or mapped to ensure that excavation or exploratory work can proceed safely.

"2007.08 - 'View over the long construction site of the new metro tunnel', under the city-center of Amsterdam, for the future Noord-Zuidlijn, location Vijzelgracht, old center; Dutch urban city photo + geotag, Fons Heijnsbroek, The Netherlands" by Amsterdam free photos & pictures of the Dutch city is marked with CC0 1.0. To view the terms, visit https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/.

Training of Private Utility Locators

The safety, schedule, and budget of your project can greatly depend on the skill and accuracy of the utility locator. Reputed firms like GPRS (Ground Penetrating Radar Systems) invest significant time and resources in training their project managers. Training includes hands-on experiences and adherence to a methodology known as Subsurface Investigation Methodology (SIM).

Key Aspects of SIM

  • Proper Training: Ensuring locators are well-versed in both basic and advanced techniques.
  • Thorough Understanding of Equipment: Mastery of tools like GPR for accurate detections.
  • Adherence to Proven Practices: Following established guidelines to ensure reliable and precise locates.

"2007.08 - 'View over the metro construction site' with the rolling crane overhead; location on the North side of the city, opposite Central Station, on the other side of the water IJ; Dutch city photo + geotag, Fons Heijnsbroek, The Netherlands" by Amsterdam free photos & pictures of the Dutch city is marked with CC0 1.0. To view the terms, visit https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/.

Safety and Financial Benefits

Detecting underground utilities is vital for preventing injuries or fatalities that can result from hitting utility lines. It also helps avoid costly and time-consuming repairs. By working with a qualified private utility locator, you not only enhance site safety but also keep your project on schedule and within budget.

Final Note

While private utility locators like GPRS provide invaluable services, it is important to note that they do not offer geophysical, geological, land surveying, or engineering services. For such needs, it's recommended to consult with appropriate professionals.

Conclusion

Engaging a private utility locator is an indispensable step in any construction or excavation project. The expertise they bring in identifying subsurface utilities can significantly contribute to the safety, efficiency, and financial viability of your project. Calling a local private utility locator should be your first step towards ensuring a well-executed project.

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