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Horizontal Directional Drilling: Know the Hazards

March 9th, 2018
Safety
Underground

Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) is being used more and more frequently for installing infrastructure such as cable, water, gas and telecommunications lines, particularly in heavily-developed industrial and urban areas.

In these areas, HDD may offer a number of advantages including cost-reduction, shorter completion times and less disruption to traffic, property and the environment — but could it also be increasing the risk of underground power line contacts?

Power line contacts while operating HDD equipment can result in severe injury or even death. The impact of a directional drilling contact incident is two-fold: the equipment operator is endangered as the current travels from the point of contact to the equipment and the equipment itself (and the ground around it) becomes energized, endangering others nearby.

The all-too-common practice of operating directional drilling machinery while standing beside the equipment, rather than while seated on the equipment, can also be dangerous. If the equipment contacts an underground power line, a standing operator may become the easiest path between electricity and the ground, resulting in an electric shock.

Always remember these two steps for keeping yourself and your crew safe:

1. Contact Alberta One-Call to locate all underground utilities before starting any work.

2. Diligently mark and carefully expose the utilities. If you'll be operating within one metre of underground lines, contact your local utility company and they'll advise HDD contractors on safe planning and execution.

If a power line contact does occur, stay at least 10 metres away and call 911 and your local utility company.

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Contact Map

Think power line contacts are few and far between? Think again.
See the overhead and underground contacts occurring near you.

The Joint Utility Safety Team (JUST) is a partnership between the following Alberta electric utilities with contributions from local municipalities, formed to address the frequency of power line contacts across the province.