Refrain from using your cell phone while driving, even hands-free.
Put your cell phone on silent or put it in the glovebox to avoid temptation.
Pull over and put your vehicle in park if you must make a call.
Change your voicemail message to say you are unavailable when driving but will return any calls once you’ve reached your destination.
Safety belts are one of the most effective devices in your vehicle. Always wear it when you are driving and ensure your passengers are properly buckled up also.
Aggressive driving behaviors include speeding, making frequent unnecessary lane changes, tailgating, and running lights/stop signs. These behaviors create unsafe situations for you and other drivers and can lead to road rage.
Keep your emotions in check and don’t take your frustrations out on other drivers.
Plan ahead to allow enough time for delays.
Focus on your driving: avoid eating, drinking, phones, changing radio stations, adjusting GPS settings, grooming, or doing work while driving.
Do not tailgate. Allow at least 3 seconds distance between you and vehicles you are following.
Use your horn sparingly.
Essentially our goal is to work safe, all day, everyday:
Stop long enough to think about what you are about to do
Think about how you are going to do it. Is it the safest way? If not, how can you do it better?
Act in the safest way possible
If you can get yourself and your coworkers to think for only a few seconds before doing anything, you can prevent a lot of injuries.
Apply Stop, Think and Act:
These suggestions take only moments to implement, but offer lifelong benefits:
Start with yourself. Develop your own Stop, Think, Act habit so you are keeping yourself safe and constantly demonstrating the desired safe behavior.
Build it into orientation training, so that everyone hears the message from the beginning.
Reinforce it during your weekly or daily meetings. These meetings are an ideal opportunity for everyone to discuss hazards and how to stay safe.
Coach workers one on one. Before someone starts a new task, work through the Stop, Think, Act process together. Watch for people acting impulsively, they may not take into account what could go wrong. They start at point “A” and don’t think of consequences that may occur at points “B” and “C”.
Remember: Safety is everybody’s job, all day, every day.
Directional drilling is a fast and efficient way to install underground pipe and conduit, but when a gas line is bored through a sewer line, disaster can ensue.
Cross Bores – when a line bores through a sewer line – have been the cause of catastrophic events in the past. To combat this issue, municipalities, utilities, contractors, and the trenchless industry must join forces to ensure proper pre- and post-inspections are conducted and avoid disaster.
There are almost always more connections than what surface observation suggests. The reality is that subsurface most likely there are more connections than marked after an 811 call. Municipal utilities must learn to spatially map out subsurface infrastructure during routine maintenance to improve accuracy for 811 locator requests.
Auditory systems with GPS capabilities (SL-Rat) and CCTV Camera systems have made an incredible positive impact on finding the missing conditions. By using an auditory inspection system like the SL-Rat (OMAG has several to loan to municipalities) a municipality can map their sewer system. Then they can use a CCTV camera (OMAG has grants available for these) through sewer mains. In this way, line taps can be identified and recorded to inform utilities or system owners, and potential hazards can be addressed prior to drilling. Equally important is to make post-drill inspections to confirm lines have not been breached during installation of a utility.
While gas or communication lines are typically what we think of when we hear the term cross bore, directional drilling of other utilities can negatively impact the integrity of our sewer systems as well.
Developing a partnership between utility owners and municipalities is critical if cross boring events are to be identified and addressed to keep communities safe. Developing a comprehensive prevention program between the municipality and utility owners where they share the costs and get cross bore inspection work done economically and responsibly is a win-win for the municipality, utility, and the customers.
NASSCO, whose mission it is to set standards for the assessment, maintenance, and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure, identified the need to set standards for proper cross bore prevention and detection. The worst thing that can happen is if an operator finds a cross bore and does nothing about it. Standard assessment and cleaning of mainlines could also potentially uncover cross bores masked by roots. If a cross bore is hiding behind roots that have infiltrated a pipe and the roots are cut, disaster could occur. A significant benefit of a regular chemical root control maintenance program is the ability to kill the roots without cutting or damaging pipes (OMAG has a root control grant with Duke’s Roots).
In addition to municipalities and utilities working closely together, the relationship between utilities and contractors is extremely important for the implementation of a successful cross bore program. Developing a relationship with contractors laying pipe or conduits and working with them to identify hazards or challenges and working to develop unique solutions, provides better quality data and a higher level of confidence that we are keeping our communities, homes and businesses protected.
The most common question pertaining to cross bore inspection and remediation is always “Who is responsible?” The answer: “When is comes to keeping our community safe, we all are.”
For more information about the SL-Rat, CCTV camera, or Duke’s Roots grants contact William Sheppard, OMAG Risk Management Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OMAG is proud to announce we are making some increases to our Public Works Safety Grants for certain types of safety equipment. The changes will be effective fall 2019.
All safety equipment for Public Works Departments such as basic PPE, first aid kits, fireproof cabinets, light bars, work zone signage and barriers will remain a 2:1 value up to $2,000 for a $1,000+ investment.
Safety and rescue equipment for confined spaces such as harnesses, tripods, and gas sniffers, etc. will be a 3:1 value up to $3,000 for a $1,000+ investment.
Safety and rescue equipment for excavations, such as trench boxes and shoring equipment will be a 5:1 value up to $5,000 for a $1,000+ investment.
To apply for a Public Works Safety Grant complete the OMAG grant application and provide a quote from the vendor you are wanting to purchase the equipment from, by the deadline dates. These dates are: Fall (July 1-Sept. 30) and Spring (Jan. 1- Mar. 31). The grant instructions and applications can be found on our webpage: at www.omag.org in the grants and scholarships section of the Risk Management Services Free Services page.
Please read the qualifications/instructions page carefully before submitting your application. Cities and towns must still wait 2 years before applying for a grant once they have received a grant.
Contact Kip Prichard, OMAG Risk Management Specialist email@example.com if you have questions or need assistance applying for a Public Works Safety Grant.
Workers operating riding mowers face serious safety issues. Their employers need to make sure the equipment in use is designed and maintained with safety in mind. Employers must make sure that workers are trained to avoid hazardous surroundings. Finally, the employer must ensure that mowing operations are performed safely.
Employers Must Ensure Equipment Safety
Use and maintain all available safety equipment. Pay attention to the following points:
Some riding mowers are designed by their manufacturer to be equipped with a roll-over protective system (ROPS). The ROPS can either be standard or optional equipment.
If the mower a worker will be using does not have a ROPS, look for unused bolt holes or brackets near the seat or frame to see if the mower has the capacity to be equipped with a ROPS. Do not operate any mower that was intended to be equipped with a ROPS without the ROPS in place. In many cases, retrofit kits are available. Contact the manufacturer to see if there is a kit for the mower you are using.
Mowers with a ROPS should also be equipped with seat belts. Provide and use approved seat belt assemblies on all riding lawn mowers on which a ROPS has been installed.
Where vertical clearance does not allow for a ROPS to be in the raised position, the ROPS may be temporarily placed in the lowered position. Also, workers should not wear a seat belt while operating a mower with the ROPS in the lowered position. Return the ROPS to the raised position as soon as the mower is in an area where the vertical clearance allows its use and reconnect the seat belt.
Equip riding mowers with an “operator presence control system”. This system shuts off the blades when the operator dismounts the machine or rises out of the seat.
Equip riding mowers with interlocks that ensure the engine cannot start while the mower is in gear or if the blade is engaged. Inspect mowers to ensure the “operator presence control system” and all safety features are always in place and operable.
Keep riding mowers in good working order, and inspect them periodically for insecurely or incorrectly attached ROPS and seat belts.
Mower operators should use a standard checklist to do a general inspection of the equipment before use. For example, the checklist should include checking tire pressure and check for missing or damaged safety guards.
Experienced service personnel should inspect mowers for necessary safety features and overall maintenance at least annually. Only qualified personnel should service and repair riding mowers.
While it is essential to have the proper safety equipment in place on riding mowers, you should think of that as just the beginning of your safety program.
Determining the Safety of the Surroundings
Employers should be familiar with the conditions of the terrain on which their mowers are being used. They should ensure their workers take the following precautions:
Do not operate mowers on slopes that exceed the “angle limits” specified by the manufacturer. Look for a label on the mower for this information or check the owner’s manual.
When the manufacturer’s instructions are not available or do not specify the angle limits for operating on slopes, evaluate the terrain and slope conditions to ensure the mower is operated in a safe manner. Avoid mowing on slopes that exceed 15 degrees if there is no other information available.
Use a slope indicator, aka clinometer or inclinometer, if you need one. These are used to determine slope angles and can be attached to equipment or used as an application on a mobile device. There are also printable versions that can be downloaded online.
Always remove the key when you are leaving a mower unattended, but never leave mowers unattended on a slope. After turning off the mower, the operator should set the brake, remove the key, and wait to make sure all moving parts have stopped before leaving the area. The operator should not assume moving parts will stop.
Do not operate mowers in areas where the drive wheels are within five feet, as measured from the outside wheel edge, of unprotected edges of retaining walls, embankments, levees, ditches, culverts, excavations, or similar locations that present an overturn or roll-over hazard. Use a string trimmer or push mower in these areas.
When it is necessary to operate riding mowers near ponds, creeks, lakes, canals, sloughs, golf course water hazards, or similar bodies of water, evaluate the terrain and any slope conditions. Establish a safety zone to ensure the mower is operated at a safe distance from such hazards.
Employers are responsible for providing workers with training before they can operate any lawn mowing/landscaping machinery. Training ensures each operator is competent to operate the machinery safely. Training must be provided in a language and vocabulary that workers can understand. Training should cover topics on the safe operation of specific riding mowers and other equipment that worker will be using. Never assume a worker knows how to use a piece of equipment or take their word for it that they know how to use it - train them and make sure they are competent with operating the equipment. Training topics include:
A review of all safety devices to ensure that ROPS, guards, seat belts, and shields are securely in place and properly used.
The importance of surveying the terrain and picking up hazards before mowing.
How to identify obstacles in the mowing path, such as large immovable rocks, man-made hazards like signs and trash receptacles, tree stumps, etc., and areas where the use of riding mowers is prohibited.
Reading and understanding the operations, maintenance, limitations, and warning sections of the operator’s manual.
Speed control, steering, and maneuvering such as:
Decrease speed when the mower is traveling down slopes or around sharp corners to prevent tipping
Be particularly alert when backing up or while operating in low-light conditions
Do not mow from side-to-side when operating mowers on unlevel or sloped ground. Always mow slopes in the up-and-down direction.
A review of stability and roll-over hazards associated with operating mowers on surfaces, terrain, or areas that could pose a risk. Locations that present a roll-over risk include loading ramps, wet surfaces, slopes, and areas near drop-offs, retaining walls, embankments, streams, bodies of water, unprotected ditches, culverts, and excavations.
Employees should be trained to:
Use all required personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times: hearing and head protection, safety glasses, work boots, etc. Avoid wearing jewelry and loose-fitting clothing that could be entangled in moving parts, wear long pants.
Never carry passengers. Riding mowers are one-person machines.
Always start the mower from the driver’s seat. Never start the machine while standing beside it. Keep both feet on the machine at all times while it is running.
Never place the mower in motion until the operator is ready. Putting the mower in gear unintentionally could jerk it forward without warning.
Never mount or dismount a mower while it is running, as there may be enough space for the operator’s toes to pass under the housing and be struck by the blade. Properly shut down the mower before dismounting.
Never stop or start a riding mower suddenly when it is going up or down hill. Avoid all sudden stops, starts, or turns.
The safe operation of a riding mower is similar to the safe operation of a car/truck – drive defensively and expect the unexpected. Employers should train workers to operate the mower as if there were no ROPS in place. A protective structure is not unlimited in its ability to protect the operator, the best safety guard is using your head and making safe decisions.
Retraining and evaluation are necessary to ensure workers maintain their competency to operate mowers safely. Provide refresher courses to workers when:
An operator has been observed operating a mower in an unsafe manner.
An operator has suffered and injury or been involved in a near-miss incident.
An operator receives a new job assignment that includes operating a mower or machinery with which the operator is unfamiliar.
An operator receives a new job assignment that includes mowing on terrain or surfaces that present unfamiliar hazards.
As an administrator or supervisor, it is your responsibility to make sure your employees know the hazards of the job and how to do the job safely. Remember to properly train and evaluate your workers.
Lawn Mower & Weed Eater Safety
(based on a Loss Control Bulletin from the American National General Insurance Company)
Operating lawn mowers or weed eaters is a necessity for municipalities. At the same time, they present certain dangers if the operator doesn’t know how to properly operate them or the proper precautions necessary to protect themselves and the people around their work area.
General Safety Precautions
Prior to operating a mower or weed eater, operators should first read and understand the operator’s manual. This will give them a basic knowledge of how the tool works and proper operating instructions. Operators should also take time to consider the appropriate protective clothing. These items include:
Ear and eye protection
Gloves to protect hands
Thick footwear with good traction (approved work boots is preferred)
Long pants and long sleeved shirts that are somewhat tight fitting
Prior to starting the machine, make sure other people and animals are a safe distance away. Next, make sure there are no sticks, stones, wire, or other objects in the lawn that could become projectiles. Inspect the machine to ensure all of the guards, shields, and belts are in the proper place and in good working condition. Fuel equipment cautiously, and make sure the fuel is stored in an appropriate container away from ignition sources. Never attempt to fuel a weed eater while it is running or still hot (Allow 5 minutes for parts to cool down before refueling.) Remember, no smoking while fueling. Keep all body parts away from exhaust areas to prevent burns.
If you make any repairs or adjustments, make sure the engine is turned off and pull the sparkplug before you begin. If anyone else will be operating the equipment, make sure they have been properly trained and deemed competent to use the machines.
Mower Safety Precautions
There are 4 main types of mower accidents of which operators should be aware: overturns, propelled objects, contact with rotating blades, and running over a victim with a riding mower. To help avoid accidents, there are some simple precautions the operator can take.
Before engaging the blade, make sure you know how to operate all aspects of the mower. This may include taking a practice run with the blade disengaged first.
Never allow passengers on a riding mower. This is true even for larger commercial riding mowers/tractors.
When possible, move forward, not backward. Many new mowers have a safety device that disengages the blade when traveling in reverse. If you go backwards pay special attention to potential hazards such as holes, drop-offs, buildings, and other obstacles in and around the mowing area.
Never leave the mower running and unattended.
Disengage the blade before getting off the machine. Many new models have safety devices that automatically disengage the blade or shuts off the mower when the operator gets up from the seat. Do not disengage this safety device.
Turn the mower off and pull the sparkplug wire prior to repairs or maintenance.
When mowing on a slope, use caution, slow down, and avoid making sharp turns. It is best to mow steep slopes up and down rather than across the slope on a riding mower. Use a push mower across slopes, never up and down. Never mow a slope that is so steep your tires and feet have no traction. Use a weed eater if it is necessary to mow that area.
Only operate a riding mower from the driver’s seat. Do not attempt to walk beside or behind it and push over difficult terrain.
Weed Eater Safety Precautions
When fueling the weed eater, make sure you have the correct fuel mixture. Most weed eaters take a mixture of fuel and two-cycle engine oil.
When you start the weed eater, make sure you have good balance and footing. Hold the machine with two hands, and make sure you are in an open area away from other people.
The cutting part of the weed eater should never be raised above waist height.
The speed of the string should never be faster than what is required to cut vegetation.
Do not operate a weed eater in the immediate vicinity of others; debris can fly over 30 feet from your location. Give at least 50 feet when people or pets approach your work area. Stop the machine until they are safely past.
Keep in mind it is better to weed eat an embankment or slope, rather than trying to mow it.
When you have completed weed eating, let the machine idle a few minutes to cool down before shutting it off.
Supervisors must make sure operators understand the machines they are using and are competent in their operation and safety issues.
Myth #1: Dehydration is uncomfortable, but not dangerous.
Fact: While most of us will only ever experience mild dehydration symptoms like headache, sluggishness, or decreased urine/sweat output, it can become severe and require medical attention. Serious complications include swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, and even death, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Myth #2: If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Fact: It’s not too late. In fact, thirst is the body’s way of telling you to drink water, and you are not at risk of becoming dangerously dehydrated the minute you feel parched. When you get thirsty the deficit of water in your body is trivial because your body is a very sensitive gauge. You might actually have only about a 1% reduction in your overall water. The solution is to drink some fluid, preferably water.
Myth #3: Everyone needs to drink 8 glasses of water a day.
Fact: This general rule of thumb is outdated, influenced today mostly by bottled water companies. So how much do you need to drink? Men roughly need to drink 3 liters (102 oz.) every day, and women require about 2.2 liters (78 oz.) per day. However, body weight has a lot to do with it. A good rule of thumb is to divide your body weight by 2 and drink that many ounces of fluid per day (example: 200 lbs. = 100 ounces).
Myth #4: Clear urine is a sure sign of hydration.
Fact: While keeping an eye on your urine output maybe isn’t the most pleasant summer activity, it really can provide a measure of how hydrated (or dehydrated) you are. But it’s not clear urine that you are looking for, rather a pale yellow. (Dehydration Urine Color Chart)
Myth #5: There is no such thing as drinking too much water.
Fact: Over hydrating can be extremely dangerous – but it is relatively rare. Drinking too much water leads to hyponatremia, when levels of sodium in the body are so diluted your cells begin to swell. This usually causes nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion and fatigue, and can escalate to seizures and coma.
Myth #6: Exercise and hard work need sports drinks.
Fact: If you are working out for less than an hour, water will do just fine. You don’t deplete electrolyte and glycogen reserves until you’ve been exercising intensely or performing moderate-hard work in heat and humidity for more than an hour.
Myth #7: Coffee, tea, and soft drinks dehydrate you.
Fact: Only if you overdo it. While caffeine is dehydrating, the water in coffee, tea, and soda more than makes up for the effects, ultimately leaving you more hydrated than pre-coffee or pop. Consuming more than 3-5 cups of coffee or 40 ounces of soda could put you at risk for dehydration. Just remember to limit your caffeine input, drink in moderation and supplement with good old water. (see 5 Healthy Hydration Tips)
Last Fall, OMAG purchased 3 Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tools (SL-RATs). The reason for the purchase of this equipment was to loan them to our member municipalities to update and develop sanitary sewer maintenance programs. Following are some questions OMAG’s Risk Management Department asked these cities, with their responses. We thought the rest of our member municipalities might like to see what was said about participating in the SL-RAT program. Here are the responses from Jay Neal, City of Durant and Matt Duke, City of Muldrow.
Question: Why did you choose to participate in the OMAG SL-RAT programs
Durant: We have an aging wastewater distribution system. We are seeing an increase in the amount of sewer related issues. Having been in my position only 2 years, at that point, I felt it was incumbent upon us to do a “fitness” report on our sewer system. The SL-RAT tool provided the means to do that.
Muldrow: We knew we had problems in our collection system and wanted to isolate the problems. We also have inaccurate and outdated prints that do not show all of our manholes, or the manholes were not in the correct location on the prints.
Question: Did the SL-RAT meet your expectations as to its usefulness? If so, how?
Durant: It exceeded our expectations. As with all newer technologies, it’s easy to be reluctant to accept its usefulness. However, the SL-RAT proved up to the challenge. Once we figured out its limitations and the best time of day to put it to use, it gave us an accurate picture of our sewer infrastructure and provided the data necessary to analyze it.
Muldrow: Yes, we have a great idea on where our problems are and we now have a good working print (map).
Question: What will you do with the information you acquired from using the SL-RAT?
Durant: When possible, we are keying in on the lines that were substandard to determine which, if any, need replaced or repaired. If we are able to use it again after we have serviced those lines, we will be able to start trending problem areas and creating work-arounds.
Muldrow: We will now be able to jet our problem areas and use the camera we obtained through an OMAG grant to find out why the lines are having problems. We will also be able to make prints of our collections system and have accurate locations of our manholes.
Question: What are some of the positive aspects of using the SL-RAT for improving your sanitary sewer inspection and maintenance program?
Durant: The biggest advantage the SL-RAT provides is to afford our department a proactive way to deal with sewer problems instead of putting us in a more reactive posture.
Muldrow: We have isolated problem areas that were unknown and eliminated other areas we suspected had blockages. We found that just physically opening all or our manholes was also a great benefit, because we were able to find some that were in need of rehabilitation and sources of I & I.
Question: What, if any were some of the complications you encountered while using the SL-RAT?
Durant: There are some variables that you have to contend with when using the SL-RAT. However, these issues are systemic to the environment and less to do with the equipment itself. Satellite hindrances, such as cloud and tree cover, inclement weather, and undulations in the sewer lines that lead to improper or inaccurate ratings did occur. There were a few instances where the two components would not synchronize. Some of those were user error and the others were undetermined in origin.
Muldrow: None, it was a very efficient system.
Question: Would you recommend that other Oklahoma municipalities take advantage of OMAG’s SL-RAT program? What advice would you give them to take full advantage of their time using the SL-RAT?
Durant: I would highly recommend that other municipalities take advantage of what the SL-RAT can provide, in regard to their wastewater distribution system. The integration into Google Earth and the ability to export to Microsoft Excel for in depth analysis is worth the price of admission in and of itself. Furthermore, it provides an excellent form of accountability for the department and a quantifiable way of determining problem areas and justifying repairs. As far as advice to other municipalities, I would say, “know the general pulse of your town; meaning, know your off-peak times of the towns sewer usage. The tool will provide a more accurate read during low usage times on your respective lines. Have a dedicated team assigned to this project with little or no distractions to take them away from the project. Have a plan that provides the most coverage possible for the time you will be using the SL-RAT. Lastly, work with your upper management to ascertain their goals for the usage of this product.”
Muldrow: Absolutely. This tool gives you a chance to quickly assess what areas of your collection system are needing maintenance and makes you locate manholes that could have been lost over time. I found that having a three-man team made the process move along as quickly as possible. By having two guys working the machines and one in front of them locating manholes and popping lids, we were able to move through town at a quick pace. This tool gave us the same information we had previously paid for, at a fraction of the price.
For more information about the SL-RAT or to schedule having one brought to your municipality to assess your sewer system, contact William Sheppard at (800) 234-9461 ext. 138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Myth: Poison Ivy rash is contagious.
Fact: Rubbing the rash won’t spread poison ivy to other parts of your body or to another person. You spread the rash only by transferring the urushiol oil from the plant to other body parts or individuals.
Myth: You can catch poison ivy simply by being near the plant.
Fact: Direct contact is needed to release the urushiol oil. Stay away from wildfires, direct burning, or anything else that can cause the oil to become airborne such as a lawnmower, trimmer, etc. There is a danger of inhaling the oil into your lungs, which can result in catastrophic consequences.
Myth: “Leaves of 3, let them be”
Fact: Poison sumac has 7-13 leaves on a branch, although poison ivy and poison oak do have 3 leaves per cluster.
Myth: Do not worry about dead plants.
Fact: Urushiol oil stays active on any surface, including dead plants, for up to 5 years.
Myth: Breaking the blisters releases urushiol oil that can then spread.
Fact: Not true. Wounds can become infected and you may make scarring worse. In very extreme cases, excessive fluid may need to be withdrawn by a doctor.
Myth: I’ve been in poison ivy many times and never broken out. I’m immune.
Fact: Not necessarily true. Upwards of 90% of people are allergic to urushiol oil, it’s a matter of time and exposure. The more times you are exposed the more likely you will break out with an allergic rash. For the first time sufferer, it generally takes longer for the rash to show up – generally 7 to 10 days.
Help to prevent poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac is available. Though there are many products which claim to work, the following product has proven to work for about 95% of people who have used it.
Best practice for preventing Poison Ivy/Sumac: Dawn Dishwashing Soap
Within two hours of working outside around trees and bushes, thoroughly wash exposed body areas with Dawn dish soap and a wash rag. Wash and rinse thoroughly 3 times. Wash down tools and equipment with Dawn and water. Wash your clothing immediately and don’t just throw it in a hamper where it could expose others. Taking time to do these simple tasks will prevent most poison ivy/sumac rashes and reduce the number of claims pertaining to poison Ivy exposures for your municipality.
High-pressure water cleaning systems have become the tool of choice for maintaining sanitary sewer systems, because of their effectiveness in dealing with grease and sludge, along with their ability to partner with pipe inspection cameras. However, before you fire up your jetter and go off to battle underground monsters, there are six things to keep in mind.
1. What the heck is down there?
Jetters do a great job on soft stoppages like grease, sand sludge, and even ice. However, when it comes to roots, they are not the preferred tool for the job. If you’re not sure what is happening in the line, you can try to send an inspection camera down to take a look, but if the line is blocked you won’t be able to see much. Remember, cameras can’t see underwater any better than you can. So how can you tell what the blockage is?
First, if the line in question has anything to do with food service, there is a better than even chance that grease is the problem. Using your powers of deduction, you can conclude that blockages in lines leading from restaurants, multi-family dwellings, and any kind of institution involving food service (schools, nursing homes) are likely to be made by grease and maybe rags. The same is true if the pipe in question originates in a factory or industrial facility that flushes lubricants, solvents, or any type of organic material down the drain. Also depending on where you are, sand can be a persistent problem.
2. Shake, Rattle, and Roll
Does your jetter unit have a way to vibrate the hose while it is in the pipe? The vibration function is used to break up the surface friction between the hose and the pipe, so you don’t get the hose stuck. One of the first things contractors noticed when they invented jetting some 40 years ago, was that when you connect a hydraulic hose and rear facing nozzle to a pressure washer and shove it down a pipe, there is a chance of getting the hose stuck. And anytime that happens it’s the beginning of a long day, because you’re going to need to get the excavator out. That is why every legitimate manufacturer of high-pressure jetters today has a feature that allows you to vibrate the hose while in use.
3. Yes, size matters
Are you using the correct size of hose for the pipe, you are trying to clear? Another excellent way to get your hose stuck in a pipe is by using the wrong size hose, which is surprisingly easy to do. When working with high-pressure water, the philosophy is to use the largest hose that will fit into the pipe. This is because hoses with a larger inside diameter don’t have as much pressure loss due to water friction. All things being equal, the larger the hose, the more pressure at the nozzle. The more pressure at the nozzle the easier it is to do the job.
4. Check your water
Since high-pressure water is doing the work down the line, it makes sense that you have enough of it. If you happen to be using a large device with a holding tank, such as a trailer jetter, your only challenge is to make sure the tank doesn’t run dry. Most of these units have an automatic shut-off that keeps this you from making this mistake. However, if you are using a jetter that draws water from a garden hose, a little more attention is required. Most municipal and well water systems in North America deliver approximately 5-6 gallons a minute in flow, but it is recommended that you make no assumptions. Get a 2-gallon bucket and measure how much time it takes to fill it. If you’re close, don’t take the chance, because you could accidentally starve the pump of water and cause cavitation. Cavitation is the second most popular way to kill your pump, so pay attention to details.
5. It don’t mean a thing if you don’t have that swing
Keep your hose moving. The preferred technique for jetting a line is to work the hose back and forth: push the hose 2 feet forward, then pull it back a foot, then push forward 2 feet and back a foot. The maximum cleaning action comes when you pull back the hose, not pushing it. As you pull back, the angle of water flow exiting the nozzle scours the sides of the pipe, magnifying your cleaning efforts. If you keep the hose moving, you’ll do a better job and do it in less time.
There is another reason to keep it moving. Because of the fluid dynamics of high-pressure water flow, turbulence can cause vortices to form just behind the nozzle when you are doing the job. These vortices, if stationary for any length of time, can suck sand, loose dirt, grease, or sludge in behind the nozzle, causing it to plug up and trap the hose down in the pipe. Getting your hose stuck in the pipe, no matter what the cause, is a bad thing. Digging it up is usually the only viable option. Again, very time consuming.
6. Don’t freeze up
Statistically, freezing is the number one way to kill your pump. If you live in a place with four seasons, you’ll find it surprisingly difficult to keep your pump from freezing when you are doing work on a frigid day. The damage can take place before, during, or after the job, and can affect your hose as well as your pump. If your unit has an antifreeze tank, please get in the habit of using it whenever temperatures are close to freezing. If your unit does not have this feature, introduce antifreeze to keep it from freezing when you are driving to and from the job. Just disconnect the hose that runs from the output valve to the hose reel swivel. Then pour antifreeze into the inlet as you start the motor on the unit, which will draw the fluid through the pump. When you notice antifreeze exiting the output valve, turn off the motor. Then, using an air compressor to blow the water out of the hose (remove the nozzle). Make sure this has been done before you drive to the job, and again before going back to the shop. During the job, limit the amount of time the units sits without water flowing through the pump. Turn the unit on frequently, running water through the bypass system to keep it warm. If you make it someone’s job to pay attention to the pump, then you’ll improve the odds of it surviving till spring.
You probably noticed that most of the points can be summarized by “paying attention to what you are doing” and “do your homework”. Jetters are fantastic tools for our industry, able to address most modern sewer line problems better than other tools at our disposal. But, like everything else in life, greater power comes hand in hand with greater responsibility. If you sweat the details, a jetter is an incredibly versatile and profitable tool that can transform your sewer maintenance program.