CPA banner Email CPA

Members Log In

Forgotten password?

Safe Use Guidance for Suction/Vacuum Excavators now available

< Back to


News & Events





The Suction and Vacuum Excavator (SAVE) Special Interest Group are pleased to announce the launch of their Good Practice Guide for the Safe Use of Suction/Vacuum Excavators. These machine types have become prolific over the last few years in the construction and utilities sectors but there were no common standards for available for training and use. The sector had engaged with CPCS to develop consistent training standards but following a fatality of an operator whilst using a machine, galvanised the sectors into pursuing some common operational standards from which a Special Interest Group was formed under the management of the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA).


The group's first task was the production of a good practice guide for the safe use of these types with work producing the document starting in June 2016 from which has evolved into a 84-page publication, emphasising the wide-ranging operational aspects of these machines. Topics that have been inserted in the guidance includes:

  • Personnel, training and certification;
  • Management of the operation and the selection of the machines;
  • Travelling to and from the site, arrival and setting up;
  • Carrying out the excavation activity including the use of ground engaging tools;
  • Dealing with blockages and other emergency procedures;
  • Leaving the site and movement of waste requirements.

The publication provides specific recommendations around lone working, the use of a second operator and other supporting staff, and information relating to contaminated ground containing radioactive wastes. Other additions to the guidance include clean-up procedures that should be followed when hazardous materials – particularly asbestos-based materials - are drawn into a machine. An additional eleven annexes relay additional information on items such as daily and weekly checks; procedures for working at height, the use of red diesel on the public highway and the transporting of wastes.


As with all CPA-managed good practice guides, it aims to educate owners, operators, hirers, contractors, clients, trainers and maintenance staff on the nature, operational practices and safe working requirements of these types. The group’s work on producing the safe use guidance has been recognised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as part of their ‘Helping Great Britain Work Well’ initiative that demonstrates how a sector can act together to collectively promote health and safety issues.


The Good Practice Guide can be downloaded free-of-charge from


The Special Interest Group’s next task is to produce a comprehensive supplementary publication on the handling and dealing of a wide range of hazardous materials that are frequently encountered by suction and vacuum excavation operations.


Pat Burke, Managing Director of Force One Ltd and Chair of the SAVE Special Interest Group commented; “Following the tragic accident, it was heartening that owners, hirers, contractors, clients and the HSE came together to form the interest group and collectively aiming to raise safety standards through this good practice guide. I thank the group for their time, energy and commitment in producing this publication, for which is the first of a number that we aim to devise”.


He further added “To endorse our commitment to relaying the safety message for the safe use of suction and vacuum excavators, we’ve allowed our publication to be available free of charge and for which I encourage all those involved with suction and vacuum excavators to note and follow our recommendations“.

Follow CPA on FacebookFollow CPA on TwitterConnect with the CPA on LinkedInConnect with CPA Bulletin on LinkedInPayments on the CPA web site are secured by SagePay