Whether you are a professional excavator or a homeowner, if you are planning to disturb the ground, several critical steps must be followed to ensure safe digging. Hand exposure is one of these steps.

In a nutshell, hand exposure means physically exposing buried facilities using non-powered tools and non-destructive excavation techniques.

Before we explain all you need to know about hand exposure, let’s cover a few ground disturbance basics first.

Ground Disturbance

Ground disturbance is any kind of activity that affects the original state of the ground, usually by breaking it. Different types of equipment and digging techniques can be used; the most common are excavation, digging, trenching and tunnelling.

Before undertaking any sort of ground disturbance, it’s your responsibility to:

1) Request a locate with BC 1 Call at least 3 full working days prior to when you plan to work on your dig site;
2) Contact any other utility owners who are not BC 1 Call members;
3) Check the maps sent to determine the location of any underground facilities.

Hand Exposure - Where It Begins

The hand exposure process begins at or near the locate marks, if provided by the utility owner, or based on the dimensions from provided drawing, and works down and outward into the hand expose zone until the buried facilities are found. The hand expose zone is a distance 1 m on either side of the locate marks.

Dos and Don'ts

There are several key things to remember when hand exposing a buried facility. Here are the dos and don’ts of hand exposure:

Buried Facility Found

Once you’ve successfully hand exposed the buried facilities and they’re clearly visible, you can now use mechanical equipment.

Buried Facility Not Found

If you can’t find the buried facilities after making a reasonable attempt at hand exposure, you must then immediately contact the facility owner for direct help.

Support and Protect

Make sure to support and protect exposed facilities so they do not sag and cause breaks or damage.

Detailed Ground Disturber Information

We recommend downloading WorkSafe BC’s Prevention of Damage to Buried Facilities in British Columbia publication as a guideline before undertaking any ground disturbances.