January 4, 2023

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Digging: Better damage reporting around pipelines needed, says LSBUD

Richard Broome, Managing Director at LinesearchbeforeUdiG (LSBUD) says the digging industry’s reluctance to report damage around pipelines needs to be addressed.

Every year we process over 3.5 million safe digging search enquiries through a portal that checks what assets are under the ground in a particular location. Not surprisingly it generates a large amount of data to analyse which enables us to look for patterns and trends.

In order to make predictions we need accurate data. This is something the digging industry has struggled with for some time, with both asset owners and excavators less than forthcoming to report their damages. The reasons are the following:

  • The data is not recorded well enough;
  • It is not in a format that can be shared easily;
  • They don’t see or understand the value in sharing;
  • They worry about internal and external criticism.

This is despite the fact that all information helps to create a full and accurate picture of what is happening each year. The data is not just limited to what has been hit, but also how, where and when the damage occurred. All of this is crucial in forming a more rounded analysis.

However, the most important piece of data that reporting provides is why the event happened in the first place. If the cause is known, solutions and measures can be put in place to minimise or eradicate it further down the line, not just for the utility network or excavator in question, but for all asset owners.

Every year, we build on our data and report across industry through our Digging Up Britain report. This is go-to data which draws not only on all enquiries from over 3.4 million LSBUD searches, but also from data provided by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and from the Utility Strike Avoidance Group’s (USAG) Damages Report.

Accurate data is vital, creating a clear picture and therefore preventing accidents. So what needs to change to bring about purposeful change in the future?

Traditionally, the Government’s position is that industry should drive best practice. Perhaps the time has come for a higher power to start holding people to account, ensuring that accurate reporting happens consistently. This is an area where regulators or even a Government department, such as the Geospatial Commission, could build on the efforts of USAG to change behaviour and make a real difference.

We urge each asset owner to keep reporting and to keep improving on their reporting. More accuracy leads to greater protection further down the line. Every single strike is a critical source of information to help protect people and assets in the future.

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