Safety Suggestions for Installing Sprinkler Systems

There are special safety issues unique to irrigation installation.  It doesn’t save any money to install your own system if you wind up in the hospital, correct?  This is not by any means a complete list of safety precautions, but it should get you thinking the right direction.

Remember, your brain is the best safety device you have, don’t start work without it! Common sense and staying alert can avert a great number of accidents. For example, when you get tired, take a break.

First Call 811 or click the logo below.

Free Utility Location in USA
Free Utility Location in USA
Never dig without knowing what’s underground. Throughout the USA and many other countries there are “one call centers” that will have someone come out and mark the locations of buried utilities for you, so you don’t dig them up. Best of all, they will do this for FREE, and you like free things, right?  All you do is call 811 (or you may now use a website to submit a request, see below.)  A (generally nice) person will help you through the process.  In most cases you mark the area where you plan to dig with white dashed lines using non-permanent marking paint you can buy at any hardware store.   If you are going to install a single pipe you would mark the proposed pipe location with a dashed line.  If you are going to install lot of pipes you may simply outline the perimeter of the installation area with a dashed white line. Then they send people out from various utility companies who will mark with nice pretty colors of paint where the underground pipes and wires are in those areas.  Here are a few websites to check for more information:

IMPORTANT!  It doesn’t do any good for them to mark the utility locations if you don’t understand how to read the marks they make.  Often the mark they make is not directly over the utility.  You need to know how to understand the mark that means “the wire is 5 feet north of this line” or you will be it trouble.  Here’s links to a few articles to help you:

Marking Standards (for Virginia, but this detailed article applies pretty much everywhere in USA.)

More safety tips:

  1. Never get into a trench or hole that is deeper than your knees, and never sit or lay in a trench. Trenches that appear stable can collapse without warning. Remember that if you are knocked unconscious you will not be able to pull yourself out. All that needs to be buried is your head and its all over!
  2. Never leave trenches or holes open when you aren’t working. Avoid trenching more in a day than you can finish and backfill. If you can’t backfill the trench then cover them with boards or rope them off, even if you’re just going to lunch.
  3. Take it slow and easy. Rushing leads to injuries and mistakes. I have a hard time with this one myself. I always push harder and farther than I should. If you injure yourself and have to take off work for a day or two, you will loose all the cost savings you gained by doing it yourself. Know your limitations, and get help for lifting or moving heavy objects. Be especially cautious with digging and operating any machinery that vibrates or pulls you. Both can stress your muscles without your realizing it. You don’t know you’re hurt until a few hours later. Wheelbarrows are another one that can get you unexpectedly. If the wheelbarrow looses balance and starts to tip it is usually best to just let go. You can reload it in a few minutes, but if you pull a muscle trying to hold it upright, it can lay you up for weeks.
  4. Wear proper work clothes. Wear a back brace (you know, one of those girdles the employees wear down at the home improvement store) while lifting and digging. Wear heavy closed-toe shoes, and long pants to protect your legs. Guys- if you get PVC cement on your legs you will find that removing it is a very unpleasant experience.
  5. Don’t get sunburned! Wear a hat and sun block if you’re not accustomed to working outdoors.  You’re probably going to be sore after working with muscles you don’t normally use, so don’t add a sunburn to your misery!
  6. Drink lots of liquids. Save the beer for after you’ve finished working for the day.
  7. Don’t work alone. Have someone else around who can go for help in an emergency.
  8. Wear gloves to minimize blisters on your hands. Hand lotion is another must have item, handling dirt dries out your hands and makes them crack. When you get PVC cement on your dry, cracked hands it stings. To remove the PVC cement from your hands use acetone. If you think the PVC cement stings wait until you feel the acetone!
  9. Don’t leave your tools laying around. You’ll feel like a idiot when you have to go to the hospital with a broken nose because you stepped on a rake and the handle flipped up and hit you in the face.
  10. Keep children away from the work site. They love to play in the piles of dirt, but it just isn’t safe. Lots of kids are injured each year at construction sites.
  11. Watch out for overhead wires. You don’t want to knock down someone’s telephone wire with a piece of PVC pipe, and of course if you’re using metal pipe and bump into a bare electrical wire…

    This article is part of the Sprinkler Irrigation Installation Tutorial Series
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