Colorado Public Works Journal, Summer 2023

SUMMER 2023┃59 “The pipe that goes into the ground to convey water or waste is important, but it isn’t more important than the people who install them,” says Perry with certainty. “These people have families and lives of their own. The personal safety they deserve in their occupation is the same as anybody else would want for themselves.” Silvey reflects on how far the industry has come in the 20 years he’s been involved and how much has changed in the last ten years or so. “When I started as a laborer, we didn’t have a Safety Manager. Safety wasn’t discussed in a focused manner the way it is now,” he says. “When I transitioned into a safety role in 2012, I was the first one the company I worked for ever had. I had to figure out how to be a Safety Manager, so I was grateful to learn from others through my participation in groups like the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Utility Contractors Association, and AGC. There was a lot of crosstalk and collaborative learning among peers, and there is still a healthy dialogue now.” Asked what those in the industry need to know about trench safety, Perry shares that the methods that have been developed to protect lives work when they are engaged. “Trench safety is very well defined at this point. Don’t try to figure out some better, faster, cheaper way to protect people – stick with tried and true: Think Inside The Box.” Like most of the infrastructure in the public right-of-way, underground utilities tend to be out of sight/out of mind until something goes wrong. When it does, seemingly even the slightest disruption of service is an immediate nuisance to the public served. “A lot of the work we are involved in disrupts the public. We are aware of it,” says Perry. “The water may have to be turned off so your new line can be installed, or you may have to wait for a flagger to let you drive past an open cut in the road. The public needs to understand these people are working through this for your benefit. It may be bothersome for you, but it is dangerous, difficult work for them, and your patience is appreciated.”