Page 19 - Mississippi 811 issue 2
P. 19

 By Bob Nighswonger
What Makes a Great Line Locator?
If we stop and take a look at the characteristics of great line locating technicians, we can identify a few common traits. Anyone performing line locating should be able to operate their line finding equipment by the book. This is considered Locating Basics 101. A person off of the street
can be taught to operate a piece of locating equipment in a few hours, but
if that’s all they know, then they only know just enough to be dangerous. It’s like teaching a person to use a hammer or saw and calling them a carpenter.
A great locator is a person who can
not only use the equipment but also prevent damages well beyond operating equipment. Damage prevention minded locators can juggle a very tricky schedule to keep up with the demand, have heightened sense of their surroundings, excellent reasoning skills and be a great communicator.
Schedule Juggler
We all would like to be the master of our schedule, but often times we fall short. A great locator is a great juggler of time. We can try to predict but can’t control the number of 811 requests that are called in on any given day. We can try to predict but can’t control exactly how much time each job will take to complete. When faced with such a short deadline to complete a locating job, time is a precious commodity. A typical day in the life of a locating technician requires a line locator to create a productive route to try to cover the ticket load and often re-route throughout the day when called to an emergency or if one job that should have taken twenty minutes to complete ended up taking two hours to
complete due to a variety of problem locate scenarios.
Good Eyes
The most important tool in a locator’s arsenal is his eyes. A good visual of the jobsite is one of the most important steps of a line locate. A visual inspection
is used to first evaluate any safety hazards that may be present onsite, visually confirm the dig area and read the facts and clues combined with reasoning to determine how the area
is piped and wired and if there may be other lines on the site that may present troubles. A good visual site survey may
also identify if there are additional lines buried on site.
Good Communicator
As a locator, about 9 out of 10 times, the details provided on my locate tickets were enough information for me to
find the jobsite, identify the dig area and locate my lines. The fact that I normally left the shop in the morning with around 20 tickets per day meant that 1 or 2 of my locate tickets would take a follow-up call to clarify the information provided by the caller.
The call normally clarified the location of the site and or dig area. A common problem faced by myself and many of my fellow locators is a contact phone number that doesn’t work or the contact person calling in the ticket has no idea where the dig site is or even the name of the foreman assigned to the job. Often times I spent more time trying
to find the location than I did locating the lines on the site, especially when locating in states that did not require white markings. It’s during times like these that being a good communicator is especially important.
The hammer does not build the house, the carpenter does. The line locating equipment does not prevent line strikes, the operator of the equipment does. A great line locator is damage prevention minded and will go that extra mile to ensure no line strikes.
Bob Nighswonger is the President and
CEO of Utility Training Academy. Bob has over 25 years of experience in the field of utility locating and damage prevention. For questions or comments, Bob can be reached at
 2023, Issue 2 Mississippi 811 • 17

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