LSBUD (Linesearch BeforeUdig) the online safe digging service has produced a report entitled, ‘Digging Up Britain’. SHP finds out more about its findings.
The report utilises LSBUD’s own search data, alongside data provided by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and Utility Strike Avoidance Group (USAG), to identify trends within the market, and futureproof it against strikes in the future.
Projects on the Rise
The latest findings of this year’s report are that the UK’s safe digging industry is becoming ‘more collaborative than ever’. Part of this is fuelled by the boom in construction post-pandemic. Whilst construction was stalled, construction companies, contractors and the general public used the lockdowns to plan for almost one million projects, including house and road building, extensions and road maintenance. These new searches swelled the number of projects taking place, creating a surge of activity.
Richard Broome, managing director at LSBUD, says: “With an increase in projects, there comes a greater need to ensure work is being undertaken in a safe manner. Whilst we all want to reap the benefits of additional projects immediately, it is important that we don’t hamper our future selves by not thinking about the implications of a major upswing in activity.
“With more projects taking place than ever before, the chances of someone hitting an underground asset increase, especially as time pressures start to creep in and corners are cut. We can’t let this happen. Performing a quick and easy asset search before a digger bucket hits the ground must remain part of all organisations’ safe digging practices. This is not only good health and safety practice, eliminating unnecessary risk on site and keeping workers safe, but it also keeps projects on track.”
Members registered with the LSBUD collaborative portal range from major utility networks such as UK Power Networks, National Grid, Portsmouth Water, Northumbrian Water, SP Energy Networks, Cadent, Electricity North West and SGN to critical fuel suppliers such as BP, Valero, Esso and Shell to telecoms’ providers including Zayo, EU Networks and Gigaclear.
In Scotland, three of the four major distribution networks – SSE, SGN and SP Energy – are now LSBUD Members, making the region ‘well protected’ from strikes and third-party damages.
Who is digging?
As has been the case over the last few years, the majority of digging work is being done on behalf of the telecoms sector, closely followed by the water industry. Interestingly, both saw their overall share of total searches increase after a few years in decline, with them collectively making up 63 percent of all searches.
Against the backdrop of all this digging, the good news is that the UK’s underground pipes and cables have never been more visible, with more than 110 asset owners now registered with LSBUD.
However, the water sector remains most vulnerable to asset strikes. Just 15 percent of asset owners from the water industry share their information via the LSBUD portal, which compares with the gas and electricity sectors, which each boast 100 percent and 92 percent respectively.
What happens if it goes wrong?
Future projects are often dependent on the previous one finishing on time. If you are delayed due to pipes or cables having been struck during excavation, contracts may stall and there may be legal ramifications.
There are also offset financial consequences for construction companies to think about when an asset is struck. The pipes and cables will obviously need to be repaired, but beyond this there are indirect costs, such as traffic disruption and loss of custom to local businesses which must be considered when calculating the final bill.
According to LSBUD’s research, the UK’s underground infrastructure, and those working near it, are ‘better protected’ than ever.
“Now is not the time to get complacent however,” says Broome. “We would like the remaining asset owners to subscribe to the LSBUD portal and start sharing their information more readily. And for health and safety practitioners to push the message about the LSBUD’s resource. It’s only by collaborating with the other utility companies and network owners to give all those digging a full picture of what lies beneath the ground that needless strikes will be minimised, and accidents avoided. The increased collaboration we have seen is very positive, but we can still be better, by asset owners following the adage – subscribe, share and search.”