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Guide for Using Hand Signals in Land Surveying

Hand Signals Used in Land Surveying

There are times on a jobsite when crew members may be too far away from one another to hear each other. In these situations, Land Surveyors and Construction workers use hand signals to communicate over distance and noise.



During a typical chaining operation, it is possible that many and varied duties other thanthe actual chaining itself are to be undertaken as part of the whole process. To prepare the field chaining party for the task ahead, we shall presentsome of these duties, as applicable. In somecases, these duties can be modified or tailored, contingent upon the mission, terrain features, and other conditions that may affect the speed andaccuracy of the operation.

Hand Signals Used in Land Surveying


During fieldwork, it is essential that you communicate with the other members of the survey party over considerable distances. Some-times you may be close enough to use voice communication; more often, you will use hand signals.

Avoid shouting because it is the sign of a beginner. Standard voice signals between chain-men must be used at all times to avoid misunder-standing. There are also several recommended hand signals. Those shown are recommended, but any set of signals mutually agreed upon and understood by all members of the party can also be used. It is important to face the person being signaled. Sometimes, if it is difficult for you to see the other person, it helps to hold white flagging in your hand when giving signals. When signals are givenover snow-covered areas, red or orange flagging is more appropriate.

Explanations of the hand signals shown in figure above are as follows:

1. ALL RIGHT. The “all right” is given by the instrument man when the alignment is OK fora plumb line, a range pole, a stake, a hub, or any other device used as a target, or when the instrument man has finished all activities at your location. It is given by waving both arms up and down while extending them out horizontally from the shoulders. If the instrument man, in aligning a target, extends both arms out horizontally from the shoulders without waving them, the signal means that the target should be held steady while a quick check of its position is being made.

2. MOVE RIGHT OR LEFT. This signal is given by the instrument man when lining in a target on a predetermined line. It is given by moving the appropriate hand outward from the shoulder. A slow motion of the hand means that you must move a long distance; a quick, short motion means that you must move a short distance.

3. GIVE ME A BACKSIGHT. This signal is given when the instrument man wants a target held at a previously located point. It is given by extending one arm upward with the palm of the hand forward.

4. GIVE ME A LINE OR THIS ISA HUB. This signal, given by the rodman or the chainman, is intended to indicate a hub or to ask for a line on the point indicating the exact location. It is given by holding a range pole horizontally overhead, then moving it to a vertical position in front of the body. Sometimes the range pole tip is set on the ground to serve as a pivot. Then the pole may be swayed slowly to the left and/or right until the instrument man picks up the signal.

5. PLUMB THE ROD. The signal to plumb the rod to the desired direction (right or left) isgiven by extending the appropriate arm upward and moving the hand in the direction the top of the rod must be moved to make it vertical.

6. ESTABLISH A TURNING POINT. This signal is given when the instrument man wants a turning point established during traversing or leveling operations. It is given by extending either arm upward and making a circular motion.

7. THIS IS A TURNING POINT. The rodman gives this signal to indicate a turning point. This is done using a leveling rod and applying the method described in 4.

8. WAVE THE ROD. This signal, given by the instrument man to the rodman, is important to get the lowest stadia reading. The instrument man (or woman) extends one arm upward, palm of the hand forward, and waves the arm slowly from side to side. The rodman then moves the top ofthe leveling rod forward and backward slowly about a foot each way from the vertical.

9. FACE THE ROD. To give this signal, the instrument man extends both arms upward to indicate to the rodman that the leveling rod is facing in the wrong direction.

10. REVERSE THE ROD. The instrument-man gives this signal by holding one arm upward and the other downward, and then reversing their positions with full sidearm swings.

11. BOOST THE ROD. The instrument man gives this signal by swinging both arms forward and upward, palms of the hands upward. This signal is used when the instrument man wants the leveling rod raised and held with its bottom end at a specified distance, usually about 3 ft, above the ground.

12. MOVE FORWARD. The instrument man gives this signal by extending both arms outhorizontally from the shoulders, palms up, then swinging the forearms upward.

13. MOVE BACK. The instrument man gives this signal by extending one arm out horizontally from the shoulder, hand and forearm extended vertically, and moving the hand and forearm outward until the whole arm is extended horizontally.

14. UP OR DOWN. The instrument man gives this signal by extending one arm out horizontally from the shoulder and moving it upward and downward. This directs the rod man to slide the target up or down on the rod.

15. PICK UP THE INSTRUMENT. The party chief gives this signal by imitating the motions of picking up an instrument and putting in on the shoulder. The party chief or other responsible member of the party gives this signal, directing the instrument man to move forward to the point that has just been established.

16. COME IN. The chief of party gives this signal at the end of the day’s work and at othertimes, as necessary.Two additional hand signals are shown infigure below. Their meanings are given in the nexttwo paragraphs.

Hand Signals Used in Land Surveying

RAISE FOR RED. The instrumentman gives this signal in a leveling operation to ascertain the immediate whole-foot mark after reading the tenths and hundredths of a foot. This usually happens when the rodman is near the instrument or if something is in the way and obscures the whole-foot mark.

EXTEND THE ROD. The instrumentmangives this signal when there is a need to extend an adjustable rod. This happens when the heightof the instrument becomes greater than the standard length of the unextended adjustable level rod.

Hand Signals Used in Land Surveying



ONE—Right arm extended diagonally down

TWO—Right arm extended straight out from

THREE—Right arm extended diagonally up

FOUR—Left arm extended diagonally up andshows a simple system for numerals.out from the left shoulder

FIVE—Left arm extended straight out fromto the right from the bodythe body

SIX—Left arm extended diagonally down tothe bodythe left from the body

SEVEN—Both arms extended diagonallyand out from the right shoulderdown and out from the body

EIGHT - Both arms extended out from body

Nine - Both arms extending out and up from body

Zero -Hitting top of head with up and down motion


It is important to remember that if you use Hand Signals in land surveying, that you use them consistantly.  It is also important that every member of your crew be familiar with the signals that you use.

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