Safety Tips for Horizontal Directional Drilling

The use of horizontal directional drilling has become increasingly popular when installing underground utilities such as pipes, conduits and cables. It helps complement the traditional open-cut excavation techniques for underground utility construction. Horizontal directional drilling offers many benefits such as minimal disruption of the environment. It's also a faster and more cost-effective approach. Despite this, there are a number of safety precautions you should take whenever you undertake horizontal directional drilling. If you are an upstart underground utility contractor, here are some tips to protect your workers and your equipment.

Expose existing underground utilities.

Before you begin any underground project, find out the location of existing underground pipes, cables and other utilities. Contact 'Dial before you dig' and inquire about them; only then can you begin the actual drilling. This will ensure you avoid striking existing utilities as you drill. After their locations are known, excavate and expose the utilities at regular points along the drill path to confirm their location. You will also gain valuable information such as their depth underground which is crucial when planning to drill under or over them. Additionally, be vigilant when drilling alongside a pipeline or cable since connections from them may project into you drilling path.

Track the drill head.

The drill head should constantly be tracked to make sure it remains on the planned path. Tracking devices do this by utilizing electromagnetic waves to track the progress of the drill head. The signal readings should be monitored at all times and any inconsistency reported immediately. The drill operator and whoever is operating the tracking equipment should have direct means of communication. A two-way radio is a great choice. This will allow for the drill operator to be contacted immediately when there's an unusual reading. Once the drill is stopped, look for obstacles or whatever may be causing interference. Don't start drilling again until the problem is rectified.

Appropriate safety gear.

Before drilling, make sure the workers have appropriate safety equipment and are properly trained to perform their tasks safely. They should all wear electrically insulated footwear at all times when drilling. This will help reduce the possibility of electrocution due to contact with underground electric cables. Such cables could have very high voltages and even be fatal. The clothing should be highly visible for easy visual tracking and goggles should be worn to protect against debris flung by the drill. Functional safety gear will go a long way in promoting a good outcome even in the event of an accident.