Utility locator training is critical to your success

So you have decided that you want to be a utility locator. Good for you – now the fun begins.

Typically, when you are hired to perform locates you will be trained “in-house” by the utility locating contractor that hired you. So utility locating training will look slightly differently depending on who you work for. In general, you will have several weeks of “on-the-job” training. This usually involves the use of the “buddy system”, by this you will be partnered with a more senior experienced locator who will mentor you.

You may be rotated through a number of “buddies” so that you receive a well-rounded training experience. But my concern is “who ensures that your mentors are providing the correct information”, or in fact whether they know the correct methods.

Using my experience as an example; I was mentored by a number of senior, experienced locators, who taught me such gems as:

  • Direction connection will always give you the best results
  • Place your earth stake at 90o and as far away from the utility as possible
  • Always use the same frequency (65.5 on the RD4000 I learnt on)
  • Always locate in peak

Fortunately many years later I was in a position to travel to the US and study Utility Locating. It was here that the above myths were broken and finally laid to rest. It was here that a whole new understanding of utility locating was achieved. I could not get over the number of years that I had wasted because of the lack of formal training given by my employer and my own reluctance to self-study.

It will take months, even years before you learn the “art and science” at an expert level. So don’t get discouraged if you don’t catch everything in the first month. There will be a lot to learn. Stay committed to your utility locating training, and you will be rewarded with the necessary skills to be successful. In this writer’s opinion it is imperative that you receive the correct training early in your career. This then allows you to go out into the field with a mark of confidence and put into practice the skills that you have been taught.

There are many aspects of utility locating that you will need to learn, and these include:

  • The Vocabulary. The locating industry has its own unique language, and this is also true of any industry that you may enter. Knowing the words used in your industry on a daily basis will give you the necessary categories for learning. You are going to be tasked with learning new and evolving technologies.
  • Policies and Legislative requirements. Your new employer will have (or should have) a documented set of policies and procedures to work by, that need to be adhered to by all employees. Additionally there will be state and federal legislation that impacts on your activities; you will need to learn these. In your utility locating training – don’t stop at just learning new technologies and cool gadgets.
  • The Theory of Locating. By having a full understanding of the theory behind the science, utility locating suddenly starts to make sense. By understanding the theory you will start to understand why magnetic fields react the way that they do. You will understand why the mark that the locator put on the ground is actually a metre away from the true location of the utility. You will understand about round and non-round magnetic fields.
  • Learn the Equipment. Utility locating equipment these days are pack with many features that perhaps many of us never use. Learn what these features are and see if they can be incorporated into your daily work activities. You need to stay abreast of: industry trends and advances in locating technologies.

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, you are on a trajectory of a lifetime of learning. It is an exciting time to be a locate technician because you will be learning newer technologies on an ongoing basis. So proper utility locating training is very important and will give you the confidence when you perform you daily duties.  

Certification is helpful in standardising processes and reinforcing consistency in the quality of damage prevention work.

4 Benefits of Proper Utility Locating Training:

  1. Safety– primarily for those in the surrounding digging area, but also anyone that could potentially be affected by damage
  2. Efficiency– standardized processes will allow locates to be performed more quickly 
  3. Peace of Mind– having consistent, reliable, and tested procedures will put everyone more at ease
  4. Quality– equipped with training from the experts in the field of damage prevention there will be an increase in quality

Since damage prevention is the ultimate goal for anyone performing locates – it should go without saying that safety then is of utmost importance. We want to create a culture where we put a premium on safety for all those that could be threatened by the damage caused by digging.

Speed and accuracy are important parts of a quality locate. Training that allows you to be more efficient, while at the same time raises the bar in accuracy should be something we should welcome with open arms.

Another by-product of proper training is peace of mind of those who perform locates. You will come across a variety of issues and challenging scenarios in the field, and having training will equip you to remain calm so you can successfully deal with the challenges that you are faced with.

Locating Unlimited is aiming to be the premier training organisation for Utility Locators is Australia/New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region – www.locatingunlimited.com.au – for any assistance contact Jeff by email jeff.moore@locatingunlimited.com.au or 0419 44 66 27.