Tom has been locating utilities for ELM for over 15 years. In that time, he has a stellar record of both locating and on the job safety. The secret to his success? “The paint I put on the ground has to make sense to me” says Tom, “I can’t leave a job unless I’m convinced I have everything right on it. I can’t sleep at night if I do that.” Working in the Billings, MT area, Tom is usually locating gas, electric, and cable TV lines. He has developed a routine of locating one line but then performing a general sweep of the area as he walks back to his machine. If there is room, he might walk 25 feet away from his original line and see if he gets a signal. “Sometimes you’ll find something else that benefits you shortly” says Tom. Other times though, he finishes his locates but still hasn’t marked anything where he picked up the signal. Then he sets out to determine what it is. “I know there is something there and it may be something I don’t mark, but until I can prove it, I don’t like leaving the job.” Tom recognizes that he has a natural tendency to focus more on something that he can’t do and persist until he finds a solution. That persistence has served him well as a locator. “The best thing that I found to do is isolate as much as I can. If I get a really poor signal locating it one way, I try to locate it another way. It seems like there is always a little something you can do different.” If a jobsite is giving him a particularly tough time and he is getting frustrated that things aren’t where he thought they would be, he likes to step away from the immediate task for just a few minutes. Sometimes he’ll look at his prints again or even just get a drink of water. Doing something else to occupy his mind for a few minutes allows him to reset his thinking. “If you are having trouble with one utility, go to another. You have to locate them all eventually anyway.” Tom not only has an excellent record of locating, but he also has a tremendous safety record both on jobsites and while driving. For this, he credits his ability to recognize whenever he is starting to get complacent and to take corrective action. “You don’t have to be in a big hurry to get there.” One of the things Tom likes best about his job is the independence of being a lone worker, however being a lone worker on jobsites can be dangerous. “They call us utility locators, but we locate a lot more than that,” says Tom. “The job has taught me to be a lot more cognizant of hazards. When I walk into someone’s back yard, I’m kind of looking for meters but I’m also looking for the ten-foot hole that they’ve already dug.” For Tom, locating is a service he is providing to his community, and he enjoys knowing he is helping keep his neighbors safe. His record of being thorough, consistent, deliberate, and careful not only helps him on the job though. In his spare time, Tom enjoys two hobbies that require many of the same skills as being a good locator, hunting and fishing. “That’s why I live in Montana,” he says.