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Pneumatic and Hydro Vacuum “Safe Dig” Excavation During Construction Phase

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As an integral part of our benefit as the only resource that our clients need to consult for industrial services, we extend our applications across the entire life cycle of a facility. That process, of course, begins before there is even a facility on the site to eventually include roads, utilities, plant equipment, and infrastructure. As a site is being prepared for the construction of a manufacturing facility, power generation plant, or other industrial facility, Thompson Industrial Services can provide incredibly valuable services in the form of hydro- and pneumatic-vacuum excavation, often times referred to as “safe dig” or “daylighting” services. Here are some of the key benefits of these safe digging methods for the  overall construction phase.


While both methods are capable of excavating, our pneumatic-vacuum excavation yields a “cleaner cut” than the water-based hydro-vacuum service. Because this method uses only dry, compressed air, it does not introduce troublesome water to the soil being extracted and its earthen cavity, thereby nearly preventing cave-ins and unnecessary erosion during the process. This method is ideal when excavations need to be as precise as possible, leaving little to no room for unpredictability, or substantially minimizing deep shoring by “stepping” in the slope. Other major benefits include the facts that the work can be performed without an auxiliary water source, extracted fill can immediately be reused, and there is no “slop” to contend with.


The trade-off for the increased precision and earthen stabilization of the pneumatic service over hydro- excavation is the lesser excavation rate on a per-hour basis. In many cases, the water-based method may be half to twice as rapid as the pneumatic method, accelerating the timeframe for site preparation. Hydro vacuum excavation is also preferable when there is rock or other hard material that must be broken up during digging.


safe digging experts
Our safe digging experts hard at work

Avoiding Damage

Surveys of the site during pre-construction do not always reveal or identify all infrastructure and types below the surface of the ground. Striking gas lines, water pipes, or communication lines during pre-construction excavation creates a wide range of safety hazards and negative impacts on the surrounding area, plus delays for the construction project itself as the damage is mitigated. Both our hydro and pneumatic vacuum excavation services are completely safe for buried lines, causing no damage to them even if they are uncovered during the digging process.

In some cases, conductivity is a concern during excavation. For these applications, we use pneumatic excavation rather than hydro. The lack of moisture used in the pneumatic method, in conjunction with proper grounding, of course,  prevents conductivity and keeps employees and equipment safer.


Another huge advantage of both of our safe digging practices is the vacuum truck containment of soil, rock, and dust throughout the process. The vacuum component of these methods lets us collect all materials removed from the site, containing them in our specially designed units, which can be stockpiled for backfill at a later phase of construction.

Again, the pneumatic version of our safe excavation services lends itself more easily to the collection and reuse of materials for backfill, as dry soil is easier to store and move than the mud often created during hydro-excavation.

Client Response

We have received extremely positive and consistent responses from our clients concerning the effectiveness and  benefits of both versions of our safe excavation methods. On many civil and construction projects, as well as other types of digging projects, our technicians safely uncover buried lines that would have most likely been cut or damaged if mechanical excavation equipment had been used instead. Because both digging methods are so versatile, they allow our teams the liberty to excavate in an enormous range of different contexts without jeopardizing the safety of the surrounding area. Also, with both versions, we can excavate from rather remote distances where typical “yellow iron” can’t reach.

In the coming months through our blog, we plan to continue our coverage of the various life cycle site service solutions provided by Thompson Industrial Services. We hope you will bookmark this page and return next month to learn more about how our teams of expert supervisors, technicians, and project managers help industrial facilities excel at every phase of the life cycle, starting with pre-construction. Join us as well on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to stay in touch with us. We’ll keep you up to date when new blogposts are published, as well as all the other exciting news that happens here at Thompson throughout the year.


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  • Emily Martin
  • Marketing Manager
  • 100 N. Main Street
  • Sumter, SC 29150

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