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Hydrovac Equipment: Safety Procedures and Best Practices

Jul. 25, 2019

Hydrovac equipment can be utilized as a best practice for all infrastructure projects, whether they be safe excavation around utilities, debris removal, trench digging or backfill restoration.

Commercially, hydrovac equipment is often used to safely dig up portions of roads and highways that require resurfacing. When used for trench digging, hydrovac trucks will efficiently locate or install utility lines by digging precise holes to various depths and sizes with ease. No matter what the project, it is important to take into account safety procedures and best practices when using hydrovac equipment.

Hydrovac Excavation Process

Hydro excavation is preferred over other excavation methods because it is the safest, least destructive and most environmentally-friendly method. Hydrovac trucks use highly-pressurized water and air jets to first loosen surface material, and then remove the loosened soil using powerful suction.

Vacuum excavation requires two non-mechanical sources:

  1. First, high-pressure water or air is used to break up the soil on the excavation site.
  2. Second, suction and airflow work together to remove excess material and safely store it in a debris body. The stored material can either be transported off-site for proper disposal, loaded onto another truck, or used as backfill to fill or level the excavation site.

Vacuum excavation uses non-mechanical sources to complete each task, and thus it eliminates the potential for damage to underground utilities – including gas, fiber optic or electric lines. Each year, the Common Ground Alliance publishes data regarding the cause and type of underground damage. In 2017, 316,422 damage reports were submitted in North America. Underground damage caused by backhoes and trenchers accounted for the highest percentage of reported damages. Vacuum extraction is highly recommended in place of using these methods in order to reduce damages.

Hydrovac Safety Guidelines

As outlined in the TSSA’s Ontario Guideline for Excavation in the Vicinity of Utility Lines, and in the Gas Technology Institute’s Vacuum Excavation Best Practices Guide, the following are some common hazards and best practices for hydrovac usage.

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