August 2, 2018

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Almost half of excavation work puts workers at risk

Underground asset searches often not carried out, according to new report.

According to a new report, 44% of all excavation work in the UK puts site workers at risk of injuries caused by accidentally striking utility infrastructure such as electrical cables or gas pipelines.

The Digging Up Britain study, by LinesearchbeforeUdig (LSBUD), says that underground work often takes place without a through underground assets search being carried out.

It shows that only 2.25 million of the estimated four million work projects to take place last year included a thorough search for the utility assets which might be present underground.

Richard Broome, Managing Director of LSBUD, comments: “Inadvertently hitting an electrical cable or a gas pipeline can cause lifechanging injuries to unfortunate site workers and, during the five years to 2017, 318 injuries (including fatalities) caused by underground electrical cable strikes were reported to the HSE with many more likely to have gone unreported.”

The electrical related incidents that were reported to the HSE almost doubled to 1,244 in 2016/17, while the number of reported pipeline strikes in the last five years reached 6,746.

“These figures show why it’s so vital that comprehensive utility asset searches become recognised as standard practice when firms are planning and preparing for any works involving digging. Alongside this, all asset owners must protect their infrastructure by doing everything they can to make access to their data easy for those third parties that need it to work safely. It is only by doing both these things that we can better protect workers and manage and reduce the vulnerability of our national utility infrastructure.” Richard Broome continued.

mining-excavatorLSBUD’s report reveals that the risk of strikes comes from many fronts. The highest volume of searches by sector came from firms working on behalf of telecoms companies, with just under 800,000 searches made during 2017. Using LSBUD’s data as an indicator of all work being carried out in the UK, it can therefore be said that over a third (35%) of all works being undertaken relate to the telecoms sector.

Water companies and their contractors generated the second highest volume of search enquiries during 2017. The six most prolific regional water suppliers requested details of underground assets on 523,043 occasions – 23% of all searches made last year.

Using LSBUD’s data to build an accurate picture of the UK’s construction activity, the report also shows that 80% of searches carried out were to inform utility work and 13% related to highways works. Government drives to increase housing provision and reduce flooding meant that searches ordered for housing projects rose by 34% in 2017, while there was also a 17% leap in work relating to watercourses.

Richard Broome concludes: “The sheer volume of work taking place across the country means that the risk to our utility infrastructure is coming from all directions and asset owners cannot possibly keep track of all the work going on that might affect their infrastructure.

“The most effective way to mitigate this is by ensuring information about asset location is made available to as wide an audience as possible. LSBUD facilitates that and we’re delighted that over 70 asset owners including the National Grid, UK Power Networks, WPD, SGN, Northumbrian Water and the majority of the major electricity, gas and fuel networks are already seeing the benefits of being registered with us. Whilst we’re still some way off reaching our goal of having all asset owners making their information available through us, we believe that the insights revealed by our report will help other asset owners understand the wider benefits of protecting their network of assets through the service.”

To download the full report, click here.

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