A day in the life of a Utility Surveyor

Some things in life are guaranteed – the sun sets and the sun rises. These two things are predictable and more than likely seen by most utility surveyors, but what is not as predictable are the wide and varied aspects of a utility surveyors normal working day. Rarely are two days the same and surely that can’t be a bad thing.

The role of a utility surveyor has become more complex over the last 20 years. The introduction of safer working systems, legislation and overall better efficiency has seen the average utility surveyor become not simply “an asset who finds cables” (not my words), but a person who has to micro-manage every aspect of his or her working day. These surveyors are the public face representing the bigger organisation; they are masters of the art of underground detection; purveyors of the dark arts of EML and GPR; they tame the beasts of GPS and TPS; and then battle with data processing and report production.

 

It’s a role not suited to everyone; the utility surveyor is a certain kind of breed. Cold, wet, dirty are words used every day by them (I can guarantee that). And words said of them – “great guys, couldn’t have done without them, brilliant, would definitely use again”.

The daily routine starts off the same every day: the alarm clock rings, get sorted and dressed, grab some breakfast, check your phone and get in your vehicle. That’s where daily routine changes because no journey to work is ever the same two days running – the utility adventure begins. Whether your trusty steed is a van or truck, rest assured she’ll do her best to get you and your kit there and back safely. You stop off to collect your work partner and away you go.

You arrive at site – you already know what you have to do today since you’ve been thorough and read the job spec last night. It’s a stake-out and clearance job today for boreholes; yesterday was a drainage survey; tomorrow is the start of a big 3D PAS128 utility survey. Variety is the spice of life. Now though, you’re the public face of your organisation, there’s the client to meet, the site induction, check the method statement and risk assessment, and make sure everything is in place for a successful day. All good and off you go.

You have the site engineer with you at all times today, so you have to remember to keep the “public face of the company” hat on. You now use your knowledge and skills gained from training, experience and daily use of the kit to wear your utility surveyor hat, too. Demonstrating leadership skills, organisational skills, thoroughness, being methodical, and, above all, professional comes second nature to you. Splash in a little common sense and a sense of humour, and the day flies along. Using the GPS to stake-out a position, using EML detection equipment to “clear”the area, scanning the ground with GPR, and checking the data before surveying your results ready for reporting and drawing. That’s one area done; only another 12 to go! The day is soon over, though, and the client has been left happy with what he or she has been given service wise.

 

The journey home seems to take forever, but the usual leg-pulling sense of humour that utility surveyors seem to have as you jokingly rip chunks off each other over the day’s performance eases the pain. It’s called camaraderie, and it’s a unique type between us utility surveyors.

The next day though won’t be exactly the same; they never are. Whether a single cable locate, a full utility survey, or finding a blockage in a pipe, you can be sure that utility surveyors will use words like “interesting”, “varied” and “different” to describe their days.

The road to becoming a utility surveyor isn’t necessarily a quick one; you can’t learn it all in a week. There are skills to master, equipment to tame, and confidence to build. The foundation stone is the person, add to that the right training, equipment, and, most of all, a working environment with a culture to develop and encourage, and you are well on the way.

The Leica Geosystems portfolio of training, detection tools and software options offer the building blocks for success.

 

Steve Davies

Global Trainer – Detection Products, Leica Geosystems part of Hexagon

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