For many years, the excavation industry didn’t get much technological advancement. The industry was still using mechanical tools like backhoes and hand tools to dig in the ground. 

Operator accidents are not uncommon with traditional digging methods especially in crowded urban locations. According to a report from Common ground Alliance, in 2019, there were a total of 534,151 excavation accidents in North America that lead to damages.  It is a clear indication that we really have a pressing need for safer digging methods such as hydro excavation.

What is Hydro Excavation?

Hydro excavation is a type of digging or soil removing service which uses pressurized water instead of mechanical tools to perform the job. It digs by loosening the soil with pressurized water to create a slurry. It then sucks the slurry to reveal buried pipe systems or utility lines without causing damage to them. The loosened earth is then deposited into a tank which can be carried to a dump site.    

To date, hydro excavation is one of the quickest and most precise digging methods. It requires less labor, minimal need for backfilling, and causes lesser environmental impact. Furthermore, the use of hydrovac services has the least possibility of causing damage to buried utilities.

What is a Hydrovac?

A hydrovac is the main equipment used in a hydro excavation operation. It also uses high-volume vacuum to remove the displaced earth and deposit these into a tank for disposal.

What are the Most Common Benefits of Hydro Excavation?

Because of the growing concern for the environment, more companies are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and they make that possible by using eco-friendly methods. 

Unlike traditional digging, hydro excavation, or the use of hydrovac, is a safe and environmentally-friendly method that causes minimum damage to the work site. Moreover, since it uses water to displace the soil, it causes minimal to zero damage to underground fixtures. Its operating speed is another major factor that makes people opt for this method because it allows them to save time and money. However, hydro excavation can offer more benefits aside from the obvious ones. These are:

1. Reduced Risk of Injury  or Damage

Pressurized water can cut through grass and soil to reveal buried wires and pipes but its probability to cause damage to people and underground utilities are minimal.

2. Accuracy

The stream of water that cuts through soil comes from a pressurized wand controlled by the operator. The wands which are small and flexible, are designed to maneuver around tight spaces without causing a major disruption to the surroundings, even if structures such as signs, street lights and utility systems are located nearby.  

3. Effective for Winter Operations

Even during winter when digging frozen soil is next to impossible by other means, hydro excavation will still work with the use of hot water hydrovac systems.

4. Timeliness

Damage to underground utilities can cause delays and added costs. But its ability to avoid and prevent damage to buried utilities allows hydrovac contractors to beat project completion deadlines.

5. Reduced Need for Restoration

Being less intrusive, hydro excavation causes minimal damage and disruption to the work site. Therefore, you will have nothing much to restore once the project is completed. The displaced earth and debris are also stored in tanks to keep the place clean. 

When you think of a fast, safe and cost-effective way to dig, no other method comes quite close to hydro excavation. It would certainly be your best option especially if your project happens to be in a busy, congested place where utility lines are buried underground.


What are the Safety Guidelines of Hydrovac Excavation?

Hydrovac excavation has a wider safety margin than other methods of digging.While it is a proven and accepted fact, as a project owner or main contractor, it is still prudent for you to ensure that your hydrovac contractors are aware of safe work practices. This will ensure the safety of the entire work site and your own staff. Here are the most important safety practices hydro excavation services must strictly observe when conducting a digging project:

1. Before carrying out an excavation project:

Make sure that your hydrovac service provider is familiar with federal, state and local rules and regulations.

“Dial before you dig” to obtain accurate underground utility locations.

Ask your hydrovac contractor to:

  • Create a plan which includes monitoring weather conditions, identifying risks as well as control measures to prevent safety incidents. 
  • Prepare an emergency plan in case a major emergency happens.
  • Identify natural gas lines and mark them appropriately with paint or stakes. 
  • Once the lines are located, they should dig the area by hand or low-pressure hydrovac to expose the gas line.

2. It is important for hydrovac services to avoid causing damage to utility lines. As such, they must ensure that all vacuum tubes and digging nozzle ends are covered with non-conductive coating. They are also advised to avoid using steel-crown ends as these can cause damage to utility lines. All personnel must treat all electrical lines as live and have the potential to cause injury or even death.

3. If your digging contractor is working with exposed cables, they must adhere to these protocols: 

  • Warn the public of on-site hazards once they enter or pass by the work site.
  • Display signs in compliance to proper safety procedures.
  • Post the “DANGER” sign within three meters of the truck, and prevent everyone from touching the truck when excavation is in progress – to avoid electrical touch injury.  

4. When overhead electrical wires are present, all personnel and equipment should keep a distance of seven meters from the lines. When boom movement is required in the operation, all personnel involved follow safety communication practices to prevent accidents.

5. Your hydrovac contractor must make worker safety its top priority to avoid workplace accidents. 

They should:

  • Keep their workers fully aware of the hazards and potential dangers of hydrovac excavation.
  • Ensure that their workers are properly trained in the operation of hydrovac equipment.
  • Ensure that their workers are fully equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE).

Although hydro excavation is identified as one of the safest digging methods, it is always good to make sure that your contractor is well aware of safe digging procedures. This will guarantee full protection of your work site, give you maximized benefits, and make sure that you are free from liabilities and legal consequences due to accidents. Make these possible by working with a trusted provider of hydrovac services like Advanced Line Systems. 


Call us at (303) 475-8420