Mitigating Risk in Excavation

Why it Pays to be Careful

By Brady Hustad

What's hidden below? 

What's hidden below? 

Risk is a critical factor in excavation. Companies that bury assets underground at some point must dig them back up, to repair, maintain, upgrade or add to those assets. What’s the risk? If your team is not prepared, then once that backhoe, hydro-trencher or other equipment breaks ground, the potential for digging up critical infrastructure by accident increases tenfold. There is a reason why OSHA lists excavation as one of the most dangerous work related activities. Errors can be costly and dangerous without complete knowledge of what is below ground.  At best, mistakes can cost $10,000 or more of repairing and rebuilding. At worse mistakes can cost companies in the $100K’s in damages not exclusive to explosions, injury, contamination and even fatalities. 

Risk Mitigation is planning for the worst so that it never happens. Responsible organizations take risk mitigation seriously. They invest in locates, high quality maps and geospatial data, they bring in the experts to flag that information on site with One Call support.

One Call support is a great way to get ahead in mitigating risk.  But, with the current technology available to such teams, one call technicians are often having to interpret GIS data, then make a report which they send to the excavation team. What if the one call team could add a technology that could increase chances of safe, successful operations in the field?

I call it in field operational awareness.  For the past decade we have worked to get operational and situation awareness in our call centers, ops centers, and other off-site locations with lots of computing power and big connections to the internet.  But, this power is now available in the field.  Through the use of Augmented Reality (AR), you field crews can have the ability to see buried assets, their underground layout, their situation, right there, in the field, under their feet. They can literally ‘step into their map’ and see accurate geospatial data all around them.

Literally ‘step into their map’ and see accurate geospatial data all around.

Picture if you will, the one call team just went out on a locate, they looked at their paper map, drawing, or 2D representation, they got from the GIS management team. With their electronic locater out the team flags the area.  Then they pulled up this new Augmented Reality (AR) solution, and realized there was a line in there that you didn’t catch. Is it real?  Should it be there?  Perhaps, perhaps not, but either way, wouldn’t you rather stop right there, and confirm the situation before telling the excavation crew to start digging?  Or on a more happy ending, the AR solution shows that you have marked everything your data states is out there, and you can confirm this in your one call report with a quick screen capture of your data overlaying your now flagged field.

The new workflow can improve the one call risk assessment in this way:

  1. Once in the field, review the area in AR to see what you can expect and in general where it will be.
  2. Get out your locating method and locate all those lines, flagging everything you find.
  3. Once complete, pull out your tablet or phone again, and review the flags, do they match, does the data look similar?  If so quickly take a screen capture.
  4. Now, build your One Call report, instead of drawing a cumbersome map, just add the AR screen capture, saving you time and effort on each locate.

This is such a simple step when you add the Argis Framework and Argis Lens to one call workflows. This new technology saves not only time and effort on each and every locate, but more importantly, adding another valuable level of quality assurance