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What are Ground Disturbance Hazards?

Did you know that in Canada, 1 in 4 damages to underground piping occurs as a result of the excavation party failing to submit a find request? Hazards associated with ground disturbance are everywhere, from your small garden to a big building site. Any action that disturbs the earth (such as digging) can uncover an underground danger. If you dig without first inspecting what's underneath, you risk injuring yourself and others. You could also cause damage to critical infrastructure. Ground disturbance training is crucial and necessary. This ensures that everyone working in a ground disturbance operation has the necessary training to ensure their safety. You've probably heard the word before, but are you familiar with ground disturbance hazards? Read on to learn all about them.

What Is Ground Disturbance?

Ground disturbance is any activity that affects the ground. The following are actions that alter the ground:
  • Drilling process including horizontal drilling
  • Excavating
  • Flattening
  • Trenching
  • Digging
  • Plowing
Essentially, anything that involves moving the ground by 30cm or more is a ground disturbance. That is the most likely time to come upon an underground facility. You need to know what is under the ground when you intend to dig below the 30cm threshold. That requires contacting your local council center or making an online request for infrastructure location well before beginning your project.

What Is the Cause of Disturbance Hazards?

Any subsurface obstacle constitutes a ground disturbance danger. These include utility infrastructures such as gas or oil pipelines. If you disturb or expose these, they can result in the following:
  • severe injuries
  • financial loss
  • other traumatic events.
Underground infrastructure is present throughout our environment and it requires constant maintenance. From urban to rural areas, the following are some of the most common subsurface hazards.

Underground Electrical Powerlines

Underground electrical cables or powerlines are widespread, particularly near residential or business locations. Underground power lines on your property are hazardous due to the incredibly high voltage they carry. To be safe, contact your utility board to determine the location of underground power lines before digging or excavating.

Underground Gas Pipelines 

Gas lines are one of the most often discovered risks when excavating. When you hit them, they may have disastrous consequences. Sometimes, you can have gas pipes located nearer to the surface than you believe.

Water and Sewerage Pipelines

When you hit a water pipeline, you could, in effect, waste an awful lot of water in the community. That's apart from the fact of the inconvenience caused by having pipes shut down while being replaced or fixed. Hitting a sewerage pipeline, on the other hand, can cause a far worse scenario. The substances carried by this type of pipeline can be toxic and may encourage the spread of disease.

Hitting Unknown Obstructions

Even though you may do your due diligence in requesting an infrastructure plan from your council, hitting an 'unknown' is possible. These could be old pipes, cables, or boulders. Additionally, you should be prepared for unexpected obstacles or undiscovered dangers. These could be huge stones or different kinds of ground dirt other than what's visible on the surface. It is critical to dig carefully, to ask questions, and to be aware that unforeseen risks may manifest themselves at any step of the work.

Escaping Natural Gas

You may encounter pockets of hydrogen sulfide gas when digging. That gas is produced by the breakdown of organic matter in the ground. You can identify these pockets by the rotten egg smell. Early diagnosis is critical since inhalation of these gasses prevents your cells from breathing, which could lead to a fatal outcome.

Cave-Ins and Ground Collapse

Any dig or ditch is potentially hazardous to operate in and around because there is the possibility of collapses and cave-ins. During cave-ins, you can be exposed to flooding, hazardous gas, vapor, and dust. There are many safety measures you should take before your digging begins. These safety procedures begin with determining the kind of soil across the area's depth and detecting underground infrastructure and utilities. Additionally, it is a smart option to have a person above ground. This person communicates with the excavation team and is accessible to call for help if necessary.

Recognizing Utility Color Codes

Underground services infrastructure is the most often encountered ground disturbance hazard. This includes the following:
  • Electrical cables
  • Gas lines
  • Water lines
  • Sewage lines
An excavation team member has certain tasks to comply with. These tasks take place after you apply with your local council for the location of underground infrastructure. That team member is responsible for marking the locations of underground pipe services. They will use specific colors to show what is present in that location.
  • White - proposed dig
  • Pink - temporary survey markings
  • Red - electric power lines, cables, conduit, and lighting cables
  • Yellow - gas, oil, petroleum, gaseous vapor, and steam
  • Orange - telecoms, signal, or alarm lines
  • Blue - potable water
  • Purple - reclaimed water or irrigation
  • Green - sewer and drain pipes
These uniform colors make it easy to identify underground infrastructure in any locale. This way, you can take the applicable precautions.

Don't Hit It, Dig It!

Prior to and throughout any digging or excavation job, it is critical to be aware of ground disturbance hazards. From rural to urban locations, underground infrastructure is critical to the functioning of our community. Pipeline protection is a joint responsibility. Pipeline businesses and anybody who lives or works near pipelines have a critical responsibility to play in ensuring that pipeline-related activities are handled safely. Careless digging may cause considerable damage to infrastructure and major injury to employees. But it also can cause severe financial loss to the project's stakeholders. It is imperative you know and understand ground disturbance hazards and the tools necessary to help. This is critical for minimizing damage and contributing to a safer community and environment for everyone. If you do, however, hit a water pipe, our prompt, efficient, and locally-operated Toronto plumbing services are committed to helping you with your plumbing needs. Contact us today!

Written by Tanya Klien

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