Safe Exploration Practices in the Era of Social Distancing

July 06, 2020

Terracon drilling team wearing face covering

For many years, Terracon has been on a quest to operate the safest subsurface exploration program possible. To that end, we have made it fundamental that safety and pre-task planning be at the core of every one of the thousands of exploration projects that Terracon performs each year. This effort to evolve our culture to one that embraces safe work practices and pre-task planning has allowed us to quickly respond to the new challenges for exploration brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Subsurface Exploration services are a critical component of Terracon’s geotechnical practice. They are an essential service; necessary to keep projects moving forward. To keep this essential service rolling, Terracon has responded by developing protocols to enable our exploration employees to continue to work safely during this time of social distancing and related precautions.

Added Travel Pre-Task Planning

Every Terracon project, even prior to the pandemic, starts with pre-task planning. Now, additional safety protocols require planning specific travel routes to minimize stops in areas where potential virus transmission is known to be higher and making reservations for overnight stays prior to the exploration crew departing for the project site. Hotels are vetted to verify they’re following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) disinfecting guidelines. Terracon practices also include employees staying in individual rooms, declining room services while staying to minimize contacts, use of disinfectant wipes for sanitizing surfaces, and avoiding common areas.

While in transit, minimizing risks in our trucks and other transport equipment is also important. Terracon exploration staff drive solo to the jobsite whenever possible. When two people need to travel in the same vehicle, open windows and the A/C blower are used to promote increased air circulation. Terracon trucks are equipped with sanitizing kits so employees can disinfect the truck before every trip and at points in between as required.

Thinking Safety on all Aspects of the Project

Drilling into the earth for samples has always been a hot and dirty job. COVID-19 has added germs that we can’t see. Therefore, Terracon drill crews take additional steps to work safely while meeting client expectations. Temperatures are checked daily. Drill rig controls are sanitized regularly, and one person is designated to handle all paperwork on the jobsite, to avoid passing and sharing paper or pens. Finally, sample containers are cleaned with sanitizing wipes before delivery to our laboratory for testing or before passing along to our clients. Extra vigilance to maintain social distancing guidelines and the use of face coverings are employed throughout the process when employees work near one another. (We even had a little fun with the face coverings by inviting employees to take part in a contest. See it here.)

Safety is the foundation of everything we do at Terracon. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges, but our men and women are resilient and have adapted well to working in this new environment. Our new protocols are designed to help employees work safely while meeting client expectations.

Talk to your local Terracon office to learn how we can safely meet your geotechnical project needs.

Levi Denton, P.E., is a national director of geotechnical site characterization services based in Terracon’s Raleigh, N.C. office. He has extensive experience in the execution of geotechnical exploration and geotechnical engineering services working with clients and geotechnical engineers across the country.

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