Jacob Be Nimble, Jacob Be Quick: Expecting the Unexpected On A Job Site


No, we’re not talking in nursery rhymes. We’re talking about what happens when the unexpected arises on a job site. Haydon Project Engineer Jacob Thomas understands what it takes to be nimble when unexpected issues occur on the job.

Many people outside the industry don’t realize the work is filled with the unexpected and Haydon has to quickly find solutions.

Jacob shared, “No matter how hard you try, there will always be things that you don’t anticipate. Haydon is poised and ready. We know that surprises will come, and we’re engaged and ready. We are adequately equipped to respond to a surprise efficiently while keeping a good attitude about it.”

Jacob discussed an example of building new water lines and tying them into an existing system. It involved setting up traffic control, cutting the road, and excavating. One of the big challenges was a lot of existing utilities underground.

“When a crew is working in the street, they are dealing with a road built with multiple underground utilities,” Jacob said. “There was a recent water tie-in where a few of the utilities that were in the way included a sewer line for nearby existing businesses, storm drainage for rain runoff, fiber lines for phone, internet, cable, gas lines, and electric lines. The utilities were marked and the crew used potholing to ensure they knew the location of everything.”.

Having a crew out on the road is expensive, so the goal was to solve the issue quickly.

“The crew potholed all marked utilities and started the project,” he said. “But there was a lot of stuff in the way. The crew had to do a double vertical realignment. Because the water line is pressurized, these vertical changes can be made without affecting the water flow. The water line came into a T position with the existing lines, so they had to vertically go around some utilities. In this scenario, two vertical 60-inch storm drain lines had to stay in place while the crew installed the water line, meaning the crew had to go under them. But even once they got under them, they still had to then go up and over a sewer line.”

Gas and sewer lines complicate matters. Jacob explained that “the goal is to protect all the existing utilities while getting the new water line installed. It takes a lot of coordination. It takes a lot of care. It takes a lot of analyzing before acting. It requires working safely. The crew did a lot of planning on the forefront of this project with the foremen, superintendent, and project manager, ensuring they hashed out their thoughts, ideas, and scenarios.”

Encountering unknown, unmarked utilities is common but challenging. It’s important clients learn how well a contractor responds to surprises. Jacob said “When we encounter an issue, we ask what we can learn from it. How can we get better? That’s part of the culture at Haydon. We embrace those mistakes and want to get better from the mistakes we made. It’s about figuring it out and moving forward. It’s about asking questions such as how can we circumvent or hit this head-on for future projects. It could be safety-related or constructability-related. Haydon does a really good job by constantly updating policies, attitudes, and strategies as the industry evolves.”