Improving Pipelines and Hearing Protection for NW Natural


NW Natural relies on Sonetics headsets for communication and hearing protection to help protect its valuable personnel and pipelines.

Construction and public works crews need to know where gas lines are before digging, drilling, pile driving, bulldozing, or performing any other type of excavation. It’s standard procedure to avoid danger, line damage and service disruptions. According to the American Gas Association, there are more than 2.4 million miles of pipeline that transport natural gas in the United States.

A map of the U.S. showing state boundaries as well as interstate and intrastate natural gas pipelines.

That’s a lot of pipeline to protect.

Pipeline and Hearing Protection

Art Colunga and his NW Natural crew pride themselves on protecting their length of pipeline. But locating and marking a gas line can be dangerous work. Heavy road traffic complicates the job even more.

First, the crew sets up a safe mobile work zone. It encompasses Colunga as the crew foreman, a vacuum excavation truck and its driver, and flaggers to manage road traffic. Second, the crew uses a vacuum and a high-pressure water jetter to excavate and locate the pipe without causing any damage. Finally, after taking precise location measurements and clearly marking the pipe, the crew moves down the road to repeat the process.

Three team members wearing Sonetics Wireless Headsets with hardhats at a road-side work site.
Traffic control uses listen-through technology to remain aware of traffic while they communicate with the NW Natural crew.

Exposure to high noise

The work requires full-time situational awareness. The crew’s exposure to dangerous noise includes road traffic (approximately 70-80 decibels), the vacuum excavation truck’s diesel engine (approximately 100 decibels), the vacuum pump, and the high-pressure water jetter (approximately 90 decibels). In spite of the noise, the crew has to:

  • Perform precision maneuvers based on voice direction;
  • Work safely around traffic and ensure the safety of drivers;
  • Communicate and coordinate while out of the line of sight;
  • Wear hardhats and other safety clothing.

How do Colunga and his NW Natural crew protect hearing while enabling coordinated, real-time communication among all crew members?

Improved Situational Awareness and Hearing Protection

Sonetics headsets allow NW Natural to protect the pipes, the neighborhood, and their employees while enabling wireless, full-duplex, hands-free communication. For Colunga and his crew, it’s like they’re on a conference call. Except their conference room is a dangerous mobile work zone where they have to hear what’s important.

Watch how Sonetics headsets help NW Natural improve efficiency, productivity, and safety while protecting more pipeline.

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