As asset owners and operators, a considerable amount of digging activity is carried out to install, maintain and repair our critical assets. By adopting safe digging practices, we can ensure that our workers stay safe, and our network undamaged, as well as the rest of the UK’s underground infrastructure by association.
Through initiatives such as National Safe Digging Week, there has never been more awareness around the benefits of searching before digging. Construction workers, contractors and the general public are now more conscious of what pipes and cables might lie beneath them, keeping people and networks safer than ever.
In fact, it is surprising that, whilst they are now in the minority, there are still some utility network operators not sharing their asset information through a collaborative and central service. Added to that, there are people who are happy to dig ‘blind’. The ramifications of both can be huge.
To help spread some safe digging awareness, we have highlighted the top five consequences of ‘digging blind’:
1. Serious Injury/death
It should go without saying but striking an electricity cable or a gas/high pressure fuel pipeline can result in serious injury, or fatality. Given that it takes less than two minutes to perform an asset search, and anyone can undertake a search, there is no barrier to doing the right thing.
2. Costly repairs
Asset strikes not only cause damage to pipes and cables and harm to the person/people doing the digging, but they are also incredibly costly, hitting businesses hard in the pocket.
In the latest Digging Up Britain report, it suggests that, based on research by the University of Birmingham, the true cost of a utility strike is almost 29 times more than the direct cost of the strike. This means that the true cost of a 'typical' £3,000 utility strike is nearly £90,000.
3. Substantial flooding
There is a perception that ‘hitting’ a water pipe is less significant than striking an electricity cable or high pressure fuel line, but this is far from the truth. The implications are just different. There may be less of an initial risk to life when a water pipe bursts, but the damage can still be substantial and implications to customers served by the network very significant.
In 2019, a farmer from Derbyshire hit a water pipe whilst knocking in some fence posts, causing a 100ft ‘wall of water’. This triggered floods that cascaded down to neighbouring villages and caused severe damage to homes, businesses and livelihoods.
4. Cutting Off Critical Utilities
Third party damage is one of the main contributors to outages, leaving neighbourhoods and residents unable to perform necessary, everyday tasks. This causes disruption to communities and embarrassment to the ‘culprit’. Plus, it has a real and costly impact on the utility provider, leaving reputations in tatters, or with them fundamentally not able to supply a service to their customers.
5. No broadband, no WFH
With working from home becoming increasingly popular, especially post-COVID, having a reliable broadband connection is essential. Simply put, if there is no service, people are not able to do their job.
So, minimising disruption and avoiding any fibre/cable damage from third parties is crucial. This is easily done with a quick search.
With these top five implications in mind, we encourage all companies within the Utility Industry to join us in recognising the importance of safe digging, and the start of National Safe Digging Week from Monday 4th July. Let’s raise awareness and remember, always ‘search before you dig’.
To find out more about the upcoming awareness week, please visit: