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Chapter 5

5.32 Vacuum Excavation

Practice Statement:

Vacuum excavation, when used appropriately, is an efficient, safe, and effective alternative to hand digging within the designated underground facility tolerance zone. Use of equipment also follows state/provincial laws and/or local ordinances.39

Practice Description:

The safe exposure of underground facilities within the tolerance zone is essential to damage prevention. Site conditions may make the use of hand tools to expose underground facilities difficult or even impractical. Vacuum excavation is often an appropriate alternative. Locates must be obtained prior to the commencement of work (see Practice Statement 5–1). Many underground facility owners/operators have specific criteria for safe excavation/exposure practices around their facilities. Some underground facility owners/operators accept vacuum excavation as equivalent to hand excavation for exposing their facilities, and others have restrictions on its use. Vacuum excavation is an appropriate method of excavating safely around underground facilities provided that the equipment

  • has been specifically designed and built for this purpose;
  • is operated by a worker trained and experienced in its operation;
  • is operated in accordance with practices that provide appropriate levels of worker and public safety and prevent damage to buried facilities; and
  • is used in compliance with state/provincial laws and/or local ordinances


  • Existing state laws including South Carolina and North Carolina
  • B.R.S., Inc.

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