Keenan Blog

Can You Dig It?

February 20, 2019

Many maintenance, construction, and gardening activities require digging into the earth. Whether you are making a hole for a fence post or deck footing, inspecting a building foundation, or turning over the soil for an organic vegetable patch, it pays to make sure you know what’s below. Before you take that first plunge underground with your shovel, it’s essential you plan your project both for successful completion and especially safety! The same considerations apply whether you are tackling a project at work, or at home as a do-it-yourselfer.

There can be much more dangerous obstacles beneath the surface than big rocks. Many more utilities now run underground, including water, natural gas, electrical and telecommunications cables. These lurking hazards can pose disastrous results during a dig, from costly property damage, service disruption, serious injury or death. Call your local underground utilities locator service several days before you start so that pipelines, conduits and cabling can be flagged for you to avoid them.

If your excavation job requires digging in with more than just hand tools, it’s especially important to get out in front of the potential hazards ahead of doing the work. If you need to employ powerful equipment – like a jackhammer, power auger or a backhoe – be qualified to use it and have a thorough understanding of its operation. Choose power equipment suitable for the task – equipment that is likely to break down under the strains of the work or fail catastrophically can be as hazardous as selecting something with too much power. Inspect the equipment to ensure it is in good working order and that all its safeguards are properly in place. Read the manual before starting it up, especially if it’s a piece of equipment you use infrequently.

Last, but not least, put on the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to keep yourself safe while operating tools or working in the vicinity of an excavation. This includes hearing protection. Steel-toed boots can prevent disabling injuries that can occur even while using manual tools. Your PPE is the last line of defense for preventing a serious injury.

Keenan has produced a series of instructional videos called Safety Shorts. The latest edition is entitled “Maintenance Safety” and it takes a humorous, but educational approach to illustrate the best practices for handling hazardous work, like digging, safely. You can view this new video by clicking on the link below:


You can view the entire series of Safety Shorts videos here.

About Eric Preston
Eric Preston is Vice President, Loss Control Services at Keenan. He leads a statewide team of specialists assisting clients with services to reduce hazards, and improve property & casualty loss experience.