Damage To Buried Infrastructure: The Root Causes and How To Prevent Damage in the Future
The Common Ground Alliance issues a DIRT (Damage Information Reporting Tool) report annually. The 2020 report analysis was released in Sept. of 2021, and we have taken some time to understand the report and present the key findings.
The purpose of the DIRT report is to understand & analyze damages to buried infrastructure in North America. The data shows that there was an estimated $30 billion in societal costs that are directly resulting from damages to critical underground infrastructure in communities across the country. These costs include direct costs (facility repair) and indirect costs (property damage, medical expenses, business closures, etc.)
At GPRS, our goal is to achieve 100% subsurface damage prevention. Every 62 seconds there is an underground utility strike in the U.S., with more that 2,000 injuries and 400 deaths. Our utility locating services are designed to provide accurate and reliable location services that are well-marked for the excavators.
What Causes The Damages
Identifying what causes the damages and how we can better prevent damage in the future is the reason the DIRT report is created yearly. Based on how the data is collected for the DIRT report, 5 root causes were the reasons for 70% of the damages. The 5 root causes are:
- Failure to notify the one call center/811 before digging
- Why do excavators dig without location services?
- Excavator error: Dug prior to verifying marks by test-hole (pothole)
- Excavator error: Failure to maintain clearance
- Locator error: Abandoned facilities with mis-marked or unmarked lines
- Locator error: Locator did not locate
How To Prevent Damage
When considering the root cause of the damages, all 5 of the top root causes can be attributed to a lack of specific policies or poor policies before digging. Owners and contractors can prevent the majority of the damages by creating & implementing job site policies that require verification of all underground utilities before digging can start on a worksite. Creating a good Ground Disturbance Policy can include important items such as dig permits in place, use of a checklist, mandatory calls, a jobsite meeting before digging, mark verification, maintaining clearance, and the use of a private locator that doesn’t have mis-marks, etc.
The table below shows all root causes reported
What Industries Do The Damages Come From?
The industries reporting the data are divided into telecommunications, natural gas, cable TV, electric and water & sewer. The telecommunications industry reported the most by a significant percentage as noted in the tables below.
What Are The Costs Of The Damages?
The estimated costs of $30 billion in damages yearly can be hard to comprehend. Consider the following from the DIRT report, “…Beyond the immediate human safety concerns, there are often environmental consequences. Natural gas damages often result in releases of the product into the atmosphere.
Natural gas is mainly methane, a greenhouse gas. Hazardous liquid pipelines can transport a variety of products such as oil, gasoline, liquid propane, jet fuel, etc., which can cause environmental damage, especially if released into bodies of water.
Damages to wastewater and sewer pipes can release sewage in natural areas or drinking water sources causing significant environmental damage. Finally, water distribution pipe damage can result in the loss of extremely valuable drinking water supplies – a risk that can be compounded by prolonged drought conditions. For instance, any loss of water supply in the Southwest U.S. is a major environmental and human health concern.”
Create Your Ground Disturbance Policy
Work site damages due to digging are preventable with a good Ground Disturbance Policy. GPRS can help you put a robust ground disturbance plan in place so that your job sites run smoothly and safely.
What’s Underneath Matters
At GPRS, we envision a tomorrow with 100% subsurface damage prevention. In addition to Utility Locating, we offer Leak Detection, CCTV Video Pipe Inspection and Concrete Imaging.
Call or contact us before you dig to schedule underground utility locating service.