Ways to Prevent Underground Utility Strikes

Utility network infrastructure comprising of telecommunications, electricity, gas, water and other such utilities play an integral role in the economic health of any country. As smart cities are growing at an exponential rate, the dependency on more complex and larger networks of utilities are constantly on the rise and it is stimulating rapid growth. On the other hand, ageing cities are struggling to maintain their existing infrastructure or even find space for new installations.

To keep these important services running, modernisation programmes and repairs have to be conducted, which results in copious amounts of street works. The ground has to be excavation to be able to reach the underground utilities. 1.5 million street works are annually carried out in the UK alone.

However, undertaking any kind of excavation work brings the site workers in close proximity to the buried utilities. Damaging or puncturing the protective sheath around a buried utility service leads to the creation of disruption, considerable repair costs and project delays. This event is usually referred to as utility or service strike, and is often fatal. This is why consideration should be given to locating the exact place where the utilities are buried before excavation begins.

Below given are some of the steps that can be implemented to prevent a cable strike from happening.

Implementation of safe working practices

More than half of all cable strikes are to electrical cables. A majority of them are caused by air powered tools, mini diggers and metal hand tools. This dangerous combination poses the highest risk to all the workers present at the site.

A large number of cable strikes happen in the absence of safe working practices. So, it is important that before the start of any kind of excavation project, safe working practices are implemented and ensured that all the workers are following it.

In the UK, HSG47 is the government standard that has been put in place in order to reduce the risk of utility strikes. It is expected that any site where excavation is involved, the rules and regulations of this standard is going to be followed. One of the rules of this standard is the early detection and location of the buried utilities.

A desktop survey

All excavation teams are expected to undertake a thorough desktop survey to avoid striking an underground utility service. During the survey, the excavation teams will have to collate existing records given by the owners, as well as, the operators of the utilities. However, you must not only rely on utility plans as your ultimate source of information. You need to also carry out a geophysical site survey to cross-check the records.

Undertake a site reconnaissance

The utility records must not be trusted blindly. It is vital that you carry out a physical site reconnaissance to verify the utility records and look for inconsistencies. For this, you can use CAT & Genny as they are one of the best cable avoidance tools. Whilst CAT helps in detecting and locating live wires, Genny helps to generate a signal on wires that are not live. When these equipment are used together, it can help you detect and locate almost all underground utility service. You can mark the areas and ensure to maintain a safe distance when the digging starts.

Train the excavation team

Lack of proper training leads to increasing the risk. Since the site workers are going to be in such close proximity with the utility services, it is important that they are training for the task. Untrained workers lead to causing utility strikes that jeopardise the life of the other workers who are on the site.

The thing about utility strikes is that they can be prevented with a little bit of training and knowledge. You need to find a professional training provider and learn the use of cable avoidance tools. Such programmes are designed to help prevent cable strikes.

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