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Utility protection, prevent a utility strike, roll out cable protection, cable protection with tracer wire

Why Invest in Underground Cable Protection to Prevent a Utility Strike

Date: 11th July 2024 Utilities & Civils

Protecting buried utilities is not just about safeguarding infrastructure; it’s about ensuring the safety of workers and the public. Underground utility strikes can have catastrophic consequences, ranging from severe injuries to fatal accidents, not to mention the significant financial burdens they result in.

How Utility Strikes Occur

Utility strikes commonly occur during excavation projects when sharp objects or heavy machinery inadvertently damage buried utilities. Such incidents can occur during street works, road construction, excavation, demolition, and other ground-penetrating activities.

A staggering 60,000 accidental strikes occur each year, leading to injury, project delays, and disruption to traffic and local economies. The total direct and indirect cost of these accidental strikes is estimated to be £2.4 billion a year. However, there are preventative measures that can help reduce the risk of strikes, especially if a multi-angle approach is taken.

A protective layer over underground utilities can help protect not only utilities but also those tasked with laying and maintaining those utilities.

Utility Strikes: The Risks of Disregarding Underground Cable Protection

Damage to underground utilities, particularly electrical cables, can lead to expensive and potentially life-threatening outcomes. The consequences can include:

Electrical Hazards:
Utility strikes can result in electrical shocks, explosions, and fires, posing grave risks to individuals in the area. Even when wearing protective gear, workers may sustain severe burns and injuries.
Gas Leaks:
Damaged gas pipes can lead to leaks, increasing the risk of explosions and fires. The immediate danger and potential delayed hazards from gas leaks necessitate proactive
Water and Sewer Damage:
Leaking water pipes and sewer systems pose risks of flooding, structural damage, and environmental contamination. Exposure to raw sewage can endanger worker health and lead to ground collapse.
Other Pipeline Risks:
Damage to pipelines conveying various fluids introduces additional hazards, including fire, explosion, poisoning, and asphyxiation risks, depending on the nature of the substances involved.

Protective Measures You Can Take

To ensure the efficient management and safety of buried utilities, it is essential to adopt several key practices:

1. Accurate Information:
Provide accurate information regarding the location and depth of buried services. This includes keeping comprehensive records up to date and ensuring easy access to them, along with clear instructions for interpretation.

2. Pre-Excavation Enquiries:
Before conducting any excavation work, enquire about the location of potential utility lines in the area you are working on. The LSBUD portal logged more than 3.9 million safe digging search enquiries from February 2023 to 2024, demonstrating the importance of this step.

3. Emergency Protocols:
Establish protocols to address emergencies outside regular office hours to facilitate swift access to pertinent data for contractors, contributing to the timely resolution of issues.

4. Enhanced Site Surveys:
Conduct thorough site surveys before excavation to supplement plan-based information and validate accuracy, reducing the risk of accidental damage.

5. Training and Equipment:
Equip personnel with suitable locating devices (such as underground cable protection) and provide comprehensive training on their usage. Regular inspection and maintenance of equipment are also necessary to ensure optimal functionality and reliability.

6. Safe Digging Practices:
Prioritise safety during excavation projects by adhering to recognised safe digging practices and using suitable hand tools to confirm the position of underground utilities before commencing excavation.

The Real Consequences of Not Utilising Underground Cables Protection

The consequences of not protecting your buried utilities can be monumental. You only need to look at real-life examples to appreciate the severity of a utility strike. While the financial cost and project delays are a nuisance, the biggest threat is to your workers, as a strike can lead to injuries, some life-changing and even fatal.

Real Life Examples:

Failure to Use a Cable Locator:
A labourer received burns to his torso and arm after hitting a 415-volt electrical supply during excavation work for new sewage drains during office renovations. The company was advised to use a locator, but none was used, resulting in prosecution under The Construction (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulation 1996 and a fine.

Lack of Rule Enforcement Onsite:
A 42-year-old labourer sustained burns to nearly 50% of his body when he struck an 11,000-volt electrical cable with a pneumatic mole. He died nine days after the incident. The principal contractor was prosecuted under the Health and Safety At Work etc. Act 1974 and fined £50,000.

The lack of underground cable protection usage in the utilities sector can have very real, deadly implications.

Centriforce: Your Partner in Utility Protection

At Centriforce, we understand the critical importance of protecting underground and overground utilities. Our range of products is designed to minimise the risk of utility strikes, provide robust and reliable protection, and improve safety for all.

Our range of underground cable protection solutions:

Stokbord® Utility Protection
Buried directly above utility cables and pipes, Stokbord® Utility Protection has proven impact resistance and rot resistance ensuring the risk of utility strikes is minimised as acts as a protective barrier blocking tools and machinery from coming into contact with the buried pipes or cables.

Available in a roll out format for extra safety and efficiency during installation, Stokbord® Utility Protection is a cost effective and proven protection. See it being used at Dogger Bank Wind Farm, the world’s largest renewable energy project.

Locata® Detectable Tape
Highly visible warning tape can be detected from the surface using cable avoidance tools (CAT). The Genny System, a sophisticated utility detection system, can then pinpoint the location of these utilities, providing workers with crucial alerts about the presence of underground utilities.

Installed at a designated distance above utility lines, Locata® Detectable Tape not only provides alerts for buried utilities before any work begins but can also be used alongside Stokbord® Utility Protection or Tapetile® Protection Rolls for enhanced protection.

For a more cost-effective option, it is also available without a tracer wire.

Locata® Detectable Warning Mesh
Brightly coloured warning mesh can be detected from the surface using cable avoidance tools (CAT). Installed a specified distance above the utility, Locata® Detectable Warning Mesh not only alerts of buried utilities before work is carried out but can be used in conjunction with Stokbord® Utility Protection or Tapetile® Protection Rolls for a more robust protective solution.

Also available without tracer wire for a lower cost solution.

Locata® Marker Posts
Based on and secured in the ground, our cable marker posts are installed above service lines to indicate the location of buried high voltage cables and service pipelines.

Locata® Signs & Markers

A high quality range of signs, signage systems and marker plates to alert workers and pedestrians of dangers.

Tapetile® Protection Rolls
Highly visible and mechanical protection for all buried utilities with impact resistance for physical protection and made from brightly coloured film to provide a highly visible warning of a buried utility below.

Investing in robust utility protection products from Centriforce is a proactive step towards safeguarding your projects, workforce, and the public. With our comprehensive range of solutions, you can mitigate the risks associated with utility strikes and ensure the seamless execution of your construction and excavation projects.

Protect your buried utilities with Centriforce – your trusted partner in utility protection.

Get in touch to discuss how we can help you protect your workers and utilities.