Utility Locating Best Practices at a Glance

Best Practices at a glance FILEminimizer 210x300 Utility Locating Best Practices at a GlanceBelow is a list of utility locating best practices at a glance.  It is basically an overview of “Common Ground Alliance’s (CGA) Best Practices for Marking and Locating”.  Which is recommended by the National Utility Locating Contractors Association (NULCA).

We have kept it simple and memorable so that those that want to apply these principles can get started right away. We have divided it into 3 parts that cover all of the Locate Technicians responsibilities. This is Utility Locating Best Practices that summarize what Common Ground Alliance has put together over the years.

Important: Even though we have done our best to make it easy to see them at glance.  It is highly recommended that you look up each item for expanded context (see link above). We have purposely ignored the more in-depth details to give you a bird’s eye view, for quick reference.


Utility Locating Best Practices – Locating and Marking, Excavation, and Mapping (part 1)

  •  Available Records – use available facility records at all times
  •  Corrections and Updates – Locate Technicians should provide information for updating records that are in error or for adding new facilities
  • Color Code – identify facilities with uniform color code and marking symbols – APWA and ULCC.
  • Single Locator – One Locator is used to mark multiple facilities – which provides a single point of contact.
  • Locator Training – have proper training that is documented – see NULCA for training standards.
  • Safety – Locates are performed safety by identifying all hazards associated with the performing the locate.
  • Visual Inspection – identify potential hazards, access points, and facilities not on record.
  • Facility Marking – adequately mark facilities – considering surface (grass, concrete, etc) and wear
  • Marking Multiple Facilities in the Same Trench – should be marked individually with corridor markers
  • Abandoned Facilities– attempt to locate and mark, but treat as live facilities if they are exposed.
  • Locating Electromagnetically– active/conductive locating is preferable to passive/inductive method
  • Facility Owner/Operator Identification– owner/operator is identified by markings on locate site
  • Communication between Parties – One call centers, facility owner/operators, and excavators should have clearly defined processes to facilitate communication between all parties.
  • Documentation of Work Performed– Locate Technicians should always document what work was completed on a locate request
  • Damage Investigation– After damage occurs, a proper investigation is performed to determine not only the responsible party, but also the root cause of the damage.
  • Forecasting/Planning for Predictable Workload Fluctuations – plan for future workloads so that ticket requests may be completed in a timely manner.
  • Quality Assurance – conducting random field audits for locate accuracy, timeliness, proper documentation.
  • Trenchless Excavation – locate in the area of the entrance pit, the trenchless excavation path, and the exit pit when trenchless excavation is being used.
  • Temporary Markers for Underwater Facilities – temporary markers such as buoys, poles, or PVC markers are used by underwater facility owners to indicate the presence of an underwater facility.
  • Service Line– The operator or the governmental entity locates and marks these service lines within the bounds of the locate request up to either: 1) the point of their operational responsibility, 2) the point the service enters a building, 3) where access to locate the line terminates, asdesignated by the prevailing law.
  • Marking Newly Installed Facilities– marking facilities upon installation gives notice to other excavators of the newly installed facilities that may not otherwise be marked in response to a notice of intent to excavate.
  • Pre-excavation Meeting– When practical, the excavator requests a meeting with the facility locator at the job site prior to marking the facility locations.
  • Positive Response– If a facility operator/owner determines that the excavation or demolition is not near any of its existing underground facilities, it notifies the excavator that no conflict exists and that excavation or demolition area is “clear.”
  • Emergency Coordination with Adjacent Facilities– Emergency response planning includes coordination with emergency responders and other above ground and/or underground infrastructure facility owners/operators identified by the Incident Commander through the Incident Command System/Unified Command (ISU/UC) during an emergency.
  • Locator Training– Locators are trained in map reading and symbology to help determine the location of the buried facility. The National Utility Locating Contractors Association (NULCA).
  • Discrepancies – The locator provides to the facility owner/operator the most precise facility location information obtained from a locate when there is a discrepancy.
  • Feedback – The locator provides to the one call center feedback on land base mapping and location discrepancies. The following states carry out this practice: Ohio, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Utility Locating Best Practices – Compliance, Public Education, and Awareness (part 2)

  • Public and Enforcement Education – a single entity is charged to promote comprehensive and appropriate programs to educate all stakeholders about the existence and content of the damage prevention laws and regulations. This is not meant to discourage individual stakeholders from providing educational programs.
  • Incentives – can include, but not limited to, ease of access to one call center, membership and participation considerations, representation on one call boards, reasonable enforcement of regulations, safety and liability protection, access to alternative dispute resolution (ADR), and public education.
  • Penalties – compliance programs include penalties for violations of the damage prevention laws or regulations
  • Damage Recovery – State damage prevention laws and regulations recognize the right to recover damages and costs resulting from noncompliance.
  • Enforcement – an authority is specified through state statutes and given the resources to enforce the law.
  • Marketing Plan – an effective damage prevention education program includes a comprehensive, strategic marketing/advertising plan.
  • Marketing 811: A National One Call Number – an effective damage prevention education program includes promoting the National One Call Number (811) and awareness campaign by communicating the number and “call before you dig” process to excavators and the general public.
  • Target Audience and Needs – Identification of target audiences ensures maximum impact for the Dig Safely message.
  • Structured Education Programs – an effective damage prevention education program is structured to accommodate the needs of individual audiences.
  • Target Mailings – can effectively communicate essential damage prevention, safety, and emergency response information.
  • Paid Advertising – paid advertising through event sponsorships  radio, television, and print media is an effective means for communicating one call center information and safe-digging requirements to target audiences.
  • Free Media – When identified and used correctly, free media can be highly effective to communicate the Dig Safely message at minimal cost.
  • Giveaways – an effective damage prevention education program uses promotional giveaway items to increase damage prevention awareness.
  • Establishing Strategic Relationships – can be defined as “Making Friends Before You Need Them”. This means having working relationships in place to leverage common resources.
  • Measuring Public Education Awareness – an effective damage prevention education program includes structured annual or biennial (every two years) measurement(s) to gauge the success of the overall program.

Utility Locating Best Practices – Reporting and Evaluation (part 3)

  • All Stakeholders Report Information – Facility owners/operators, locators, excavators, or stakeholders with an interest in underground damage prevention report qualified information on incidents that could have, or did, lead to a damaged underground facility.
  • Standardized Information is Reported – The requested data is standardized and consists of minimum essential information that can be analyzed to determine what events could, or did, lead to a damaged facility.
  • Identity the Non-compliant Stakeholder – It is important to identify the non-compliant stakeholder (facility owner/operator, excavator, locator, or one call notification center) so that this group can be targeted with education and training.
  • Person Reporting Provides Detailed Information – If all the requested data is not available, the person reporting the information provides the most complete information possible.
  • Requested Information May Change – The report is revised, as needed, to adapt to changes in the state’s statutes, the evolution of industry technology, and the awareness of root causes.
  • A Standardized Form is Adopted – a standardized form is adopted and distributed to all facility owners/operators, locators, excavators, and other appropriate stakeholders.
  • The Form is Simple – By limiting the number of hand-written responses, the information is easy to complete.
  • Training is Provided – Training and education on how and when to complete the form are made available.
  • The Form is One Page – If possible the form is limited to one-page.
  • Stakeholders Complete the Same Form – Facility owners/operators, locators, excavators, or stakeholders with an interest in the damage prevention process.
  • An Organization Evaluates the Data – A centralized and independent organization, such as a Damage Prevention Committee, is identified to evaluate the completed forms and publish the data.
  • The Organization Has Representation from All Stakeholders – The Damage Prevention Committee, with representation from all interested stakeholders, assists in the evaluation process.
  • Data is Used to Improve Damage Prevention Efforts – The reported data is used to assess and improve underground damage prevention efforts.
  • Data Is Used to Elevate Underground Damage Awareness – The reported data is not primarily used to penalize or punish; rather, it is used to elevate underground damage awareness through recommended training and education.
  • Data is Summarized by Key Components – The reported data is summarized by key components
  • Root Causes Are Identified – Root causes of damages or near damages are identified.
  • Results Are Quantified Against a Standardized Risk Factor – The risk factor considers a stakeholder’s exposure to potential damage.
  • Performance Levels and Trends Are Assessed – Performance Levels and Trends are assessed against those of other organizations
  • Homeland Security – all parties must ensure that such information is shared only with individuals who truly require this critical information.

Utility Locating Best Practices at a Glance was created to get a brief look at the guidelines put together by Common Ground Alliance – be sure to check out entire document at CGA’s website for the fuller context.

 Do you have any locating tips or best practices? Share them in the comments section below.