Risks when opening utility pits are numerous, the top of the danger list would be, awareness of confined spaces, built up gases/toxic material and electrification.
A huge reduction in risk of damage or/and injury can achieved with awareness of these issues. Correct SWMS, SOPs and Training is mandatory to avoid these dangers all together.
The following list has been compiled from personal on-site experience, the ranking system is probability x damage/injury = risk ranking. (Probability of occurrence x Potential Severity of damage or injury).
What are some of the main risks, dangers and hazards when working with utility asset service pits?
These are ordered in rank of risk but vary on work location, experience and situational awareness.
- Asbestos Utility Pits
- Asbestos Pipes Storm water
- Chemicals Sprayed for Pests (Dieldrin Pesticide on Telstra Pits)
- Trip and Fall Hazard Utility Pits
- Animals and Insects
- Manual Lifting
- Damaged Utilities
- Water logged
Asbestos Utility Pits
Asbestos Pits are still in use and can dangerous when the material is disturbed by moving, lifting or accidentally hitting these pits. Awareness and correct Training should be used when dealing with these materials on any level.
Asbestos Pipes are used for storm water pipes to communication pipes. These are still currently in use, but are slowly being remediated and replaced with longer lasting and safer materials.
Chemicals Sprayed for Pests (Dieldrin Pesticide on Telstra Pits)
This was news to me, a recent article has pointed out these pesticide chemicals used in and around pits can be extremely dangerous when in contact, and becomes more dangerous when someone is unaware of these risks.
Trip and Fall Hazard Utility Pits
Tripping or Falling into pits is a danger most people would be aware of, but still happens due to complacency.
Animals and Insects
Most common are.. Spiders, Rats/Mice, Lizards, Snakes, But this can depend on your local wild life.
Needles and Syringes can be found in pits, this is a bigger problem then people might expect, these needles are mostly discarded by drug addicts with diseases like hepatitis.
Avoid manual lifting when possible and always remember to use a safe method of lifting while doing so, there are many tools and devices that can help you lift pits in a way that will reduce the chance of injury and/or damages to a utility pit.
Damaged utilities within pits can cause injury or further damages, these pits should immediately be report to the asset owner. Report Damage to Telstra Pit or Asset
Water can be energized or the pit can have any number of hazards under the waters surface that can be hard to identify, A bilge pump can solve this problem. Reaching into pits that are water logged is a dangerous task, and should not be attempted for any reason. These pits must be drained and PPE is necessary to avoid any injuries.
Dangerous plants and weeds can creep into utility pits and can be a problem. Weeds can have spikes that can penetrate PPE and skin if you are not careful. They can cause other health problems by breathing it in or cause skin irritations just brushing by it with bare skin. Just touching some plants and rubbing your eyes can leave you blind.
Here are some examples of what to watch out for..
Milky mangrove also known as ‘blind-your-eye-mangrove’. The milky sap of this plant is highly poisonous and can cause temporary blindness if it comes into contact with a person’s eyes. Other side effects can include skin irritations and blistering.
Euphorbia genus, that are commonly described as ‘spurges’. Contact with this sap can cause serious inflammation of the eyes, nose or mouth, and even blindness.
Many of the nettle species have stinging hairs that can cause extreme pain to people who come into contact with them.
Stinging hairs on the plant’s stems, leaves and fruit may cause allergic reactions, swelling and searing pain. A member of the nettle family, the gympie gympie, or ‘giant stinging tree’ as it is more commonly known, can have extreme effects on people who come into contact with it.