logo for UK Construction Blog

Blog Details

Vacuum Excavation: Safety Procedures and Best Practices

Vacuum excavation is now one of the safest methods of excavation. It’s highly effective, and it has the ability to remove a range of materials such as loosened earth and granular materials that are then stored in a hopper. Despite this, in order to successfully implement vacuum excavation as a process, is it important that safety procedures and best practices are followed, but what are they?

Safety Procedures

Safety On-site

It’s imperative that safety on site is considered to ensure that the process can be carried out effectively. Therefore, it’s important to consider ground conditions and that they can adequately support the loads placed on it. It’s also important to consider overhead power lines, as the boom must not be operated when they are present. Ensuring that the site is suitable and safe is a priority.

It is not just above ground that has to be considered as all utilities will need to be located, while it’s important that any open holes are correctly identified with appropriate signage and cones or fencing.

Personal Protective Equipment

It’s important that operators wear the correct PPH equipment, although this can vary depending on the system being used. Therefore, they will need to consider their footwear, as working near live electrical lines will require dielectric boots. Eye protection, gloves and a hard hat are also vital, as ear defenders and reflective clothing.  

Keeping A Distance 

Maintaining a safe distance during operation and when the vacuum excavator tank is open is crucial. Nobody should be standing near the machine, while operators must ensure that they don’t stand too close to open holes, as it’s possible that they can cave in. Operators are also reminded to keep their limbs away from the wand and the vacuum hose nozzle. 

Best Practices  

Keep Invasiveness to a Minimum 

Vacuum excavation relies on a relatively simple way to remove earth and other debris from the ground. However, when using machinery, it is important to make sure that the machine does not cause any destruction underground. It’s important that all operators understand the machine and the potential risks of digging, as a lack of knowledge could mean that over-invasiveness can lead to significant problems.


Safety has its own meaning when it comes to vacuum excavation, but it also forms part of best practices. The correct safety measures have to be implemented before vacuum excavation takes place, while it’s also imperative to maintain high levels of safety during and after. It’s always worth ensuring that the area is safe and that includes below and above ground, while all procedures should be fully understood by all. Along with this, operators should make sure that they are wearing all required personal protective equipment. 

Prepare for Emergencies

While the risk of an emergency is low, it is always possible and preparing for all eventualities is key. Therefore, it is important that a plan of action is in place should an emergency occur. It is crucial to have procedures in writing, so they can be referred to. They might never be required, but they are available and show that you are prepared should something happen in the future. If operating within a facility then it can also help to inform the site owner of the procedures as this will ensure that everyone understands what is required or expected should an emergency arise.

Trained Professionals 

Vacuum excavation can be extremely dangerous if the process is undertaken by individuals who are not trained correctly. If individuals have not been trained and qualified to industry standards, then they are at an increased risk of causing problems and harm. Remaining compliant is key, and failing to remain compliant can lead to significant fines. As a result, all equipment must be handled by someone who is not just qualified, but also competent enough to carry out the work. This will mean that they will need to consider the likes of first aid, CPR and electrical awareness among other things when carrying out work.

Vacuum excavation is an extremely useful method, here are some uses of vacuum excavation, but it has to be carried out safely and in the right way. This means that all safety requirements and best practices have to be followed.