Colorado Public Works Journal, Summer 2023

SUMMER 2023┃19 under criminal charges as serious as manslaughter. One such case is being played out right now for the owner of construction company based out of Vail that is responsible for death of an employee in 2021. This employer has been charged with felony Manslaughter for not protecting the employee from cave-in hazards that took his life. Of course, on the civil side, settlements and payouts are significant.” Tim Mukoda, Safety Manager, Denver Water Established as a public utility in 1918, Denver Water takes responsibility for the collection, treatment, and distribution of water across the greater metro Denver. Tim Mukoda, Safety Manager, joined Denver Water two and a half years ago on the heels of a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force. He is double board certified as a safety professional (CSP) and industrial hygienist (CIH) and has made safety in many forms his life’s work. “At Denver Water, the goal is to provide safe, highquality drinking water to about 1.5 million people while keeping our rates low. There is a tremendous amount of infrastructure involved in collecting that water from the mountains, getting it to treatment plants, and then distributing it to people’s homes and businesses,” says Mukoda of a system complexity that few can truly fathom. “A lot of our distribution infrastructure is underground, so the first thing that comes to mind related to safety is Denver Water’s very aggressive line locate program.” Like Denver Water, their counterparts in electric, gas, sanitary sewer, cable, internet, and telecommunications all routinely use the limited ROW running publicly beneath us. Cooperation within this congested arena is a must. “Electricity and gas are the biggest dangers to the people working on our projects and the public,” continues Mukoda. “We make sure the contractors working with us understand that we don’t compromise on safety. We focus on planning the work. So we want utility locates to be thorough and accurate. Not knowing something was there is worse than knowing it was there and hitting it. Accidents happen, other entities hit our lines, and sometimes we hit theirs. Safety is about planning ahead. When we know something is there, we are prepared to deal with it.” Utility strikes and trench safety aren’t the only dangers of underground work. Mukoda shines a light on the hazards of air quality that can exist in confined spaces. “In confined spaces, which include trenches of five feet or more, safety also has to consider air quality. If you are working with chemicals, they will build up inside that trench in ways they wouldn’t in the open air. That condition could become either explosive, flammable, or toxic, so it’s very important to really understand all aspects of safety when working in the ground. If you think about what you are doing, what are the risks, and what good choices can be made, then you are applying the basics of risk management to everything you do.”