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Monday, January 21, 2013

Current Practices vs Effective Means

Throughout the country, MUUDS markers have been identified as an effective tool for safety, identification and location; however, there are always the stalwarts opposed to change, as in any industry, who insist that the current practice works just fine.  To a certain extent, we would agree, but not entirely.  The practice used today to identify underground utilities, is far better than what was used 20 years ago inasmuch as ground penetrating radar (GPR), sonar and the like are effective tools for locating.  There is a significant drawback to surface marking that makes the practice ineffective.

GPR offers an approximate location both vertically and horizontally that creates awareness to the presence of a buried utility; however, the drawback is that surface markings disappear as soon as excavation begins.  The argument made in favor of current practices is that once they know the depth based on electronic readings, workers can excavate and continually check as they get closer to the line.  The argument against this practice is that far too often, workers in the field do not follow this practice, making it more effective in theory than application.

MUUDS works uniquely in that they are the only depth marker that is installed WITH the utility and therefor is an accurate measurement when a utility is unearthed.  Furthermore, with a MUUDS marker in the field, workers don't need to repeatedly enter the trench to measure and probe for a utility line.  An excavator can get within a safe distance and probe when they are close BEFORE hitting the line.  This is a significant difference in approach and far more safe for workers in the field.

The current practices argument is interesting because while the number of incidents for damage may have decreased over the years, utility lines continue to get hit on a regular basis, approximately one per minute, which for any worker, utility owner, municipality or construction company, continues to be far too often.  Current practices in theory, do not remove the human error component because electronic devices do not provide a physical pathway to a buried utility.  MUUDS stay with the operator and provide more accurate and valuable information in the field than surface marking while removing the excuse of not knowing how deep the utility really was.

It's not that the current practice is bad... it's that we can always do better and when it comes to safety, we should always strive to protect workers in the field to the greatest degree possible.

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