Ditch Witch vacs have safety requirements of their own, but they are also employed for one of the most critical safety precautions of any utility installation: potholing. By potholing, or using high-pressure water to expose buried utility lines, you can safely verify the location of the lines around which the digging or drilling operation will take place.
• When driving, consider effects of sloshing water or spoils in tanks.
Make sure tow vehicle is appropriately sized.
• Wear appropriate personal protective equipment as needed. For
vacuum excavation, the following are recommended depending on
the job: Face shield, hard hat, safety glasses, dielectric boots and
gloves and hearing protection.
• When cleaning filter, use respirator if necessary depending on
material excavated. For example, when silica dust may be
• Wear appropriately rated electrically insulated boots with pant legs
tucked in, and appropriately rated electrically insulated gloves when
operating on an electrical jobsite.
• Keep pressure wand away from body parts.
• Do not put the end of the suction hose or tools on any body part.
• Do not open spoils tank door or filter doors until tank has been depressurized
and fluids and any flowable spoils have been emptied.
• Reverse flow should not be engaged unless tank drain valves are
• Drain fluids and flowable spoils before raising the tank.
• Stay away from door when opening and when dumping.
• No one should be under raised components, such as the tank door
or the raised tank, without using lockout devices or ensuring
component is over-center while on level ground.
• Ensure you have a clear view of the door area and beneath the
tank when closing door or lowering tank.
• Flammable material should not be vacuumed. If using vacuum in
the presence of natural gas, precautions should be taken to ensure
inlet air/fuel ratio is outside of flammability range. This should only
be performed by qualified individuals using appropriate measuring
• Do not enter a spoils tank unless it has been evacuated with fresh
• High pressure water can cut through clothing, skin, wood and
• Utility age and physical composition can affect vulnerability to
damage by wand.
• Suction can quickly suffocate and can pull blood through the skin.
• Static charge can build in the vacuum hose. This can generate a
spark and depending on the conditions and material being
excavated may ignite.
• Hazardous materials require special transport vehicles. Most
vacuum excavators are not equipped to transport hazardous
• High pressure water or air can cause excavated material and rocks
to be thrown.
• At the completion of a job, the crew was cleaning the spoils tank.
The operator closed the tank door while standing at the front of the
tank. He didn’t know that his co-worker had spotted more spoils in
the tank and was quickly trying to finish the cleanup. The operator
closed the door on his co-worker, crushing him.
• A crew was transporting a vacuum tank which was half full of liquid.
The only truck available that day was undersized. They decided
that since the tank was only half full, it would work. The water
began sloshing in the tank, causing them to lose control of the tow
vehicle. They crashed into an oncoming vehicle.
• An operator was exposing an electric line using a straight nozzle
and high pressure water. He was unaware of proper exposing
techniques and cut the electric line. He was not wearing insulated
boots and gloves and received an electrical shock. He was revived
on the scene and transported to the hospital with burns on his
hands and feet.