28 August 2009

Excavation safety "Dial Before You Dig"

A Dial Before You Dig picture showing typical congestion of underground pipes and cables

Damage claims running into millions of dollars, criminal prosecution charges, serious injury, even death!! The risks in doing excavation work are plenty. Learn how we manage these risks and make this a profitable business.

A number of years ago on an early Tuesday morning in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, I was talking to a client half a world away from me. Halfway through my conversation, the line abruptly went silent.

"Hello, you there? Hello..." I repeated for a while. Tried calling back, no success. "Strange" I thought and decided to try again a while later. A visibly angry colleague rushed back to his desk right then. "These support guys are so unreliable" he was fuming. "Such an important video conference with the Tokyo team gets blacked out, and they can do nothing to fix it! No signal, they say".

As more and more colleagues joined us to complain of telephones and even internet services cut abruptly, we realised something was amiss. And so it was...

Nearly 5,000 telephone lines of the Bangalore Telecom went dead on Tuesday morning. Reason: Workers employed by Reliance Industries Ltd cut across their concrete duct and cables while laying its Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) ...

Not just that. Over 80 per cent of Spice Telecom Network's services were hit and the entire ITPL was plunged into non-communication. Both their telephone lines and data circuits were affected.     Read whole story here...

  • Commercial damage claims by businesses (including hospitals, emergency services, schools and community centres) unable to function
  • Damage claims by the underground asset owner
  • Criminal prosecution if negligence can be proved as cause in certain cases
  • Serious injury or even death from accidents such as ruptured sewage or gas pipes or contact with electricity cables

Quite scary, isn't it? It is definitely a risky business, but there are also various ways to stay safe. The first thing required is to get to know the location of underground assets in the work site. A wonderfully easy way to start is to Dial Before You Dig (DBYD) on 1100. This is a free referral service for underground pipes and cables anywhere in Australia. They partner with all underground asset owners around Australia and act as a single point of contact for excavators.

Unfortunately though, not all asset owners in Australia will be members of DBYD, so do not assume that the plans received through them are the only assets. So dont go running the trenching machine blindly, dig around by hand first to establish exactly where the assets are. Once exposed, protecting the assets is the excavator's responsibility too - so get this done before starting the job. Put up barriers in case it is an area that other people may use. Proceed to the excavation only when all of this has been done, and stay safe!