It is there.
It is patiently waiting.
It never misses an opportunity.
Working with underground utilities is one of the most under-appreciated risks faced by our generation of construction. Although great strides have been made in underground utility locating technology, procedures, and controls, we are consistently inconsistent in our execution. This raises the question of what to do.
As with most aspects of life, knowledge is power. The framework for an effective underground utility prevention program has a primary focus on preparation to learn as much as possible about a working environment that can not been seen. Extensive and deliberate exploratory activities are necessary to achieve a simple goal: Knowing, with a high level of certainty, what utilities are within proximity of the work. This provides the understanding necessary for teams to navigate underground and execute safe work.
As the saying goes, a tool is only as effective as the person (or organization) using it. Working closely with the construction, utility, healthcare, and manufacturing industries, we have assisted in the development and implementation of underground utility prevention programs resulting in significant improvement. Although most share similar field-proven framework and processes, the varying degree of success is determined by the organization’s commitment to consistent application of all aspects of the program.
We all know we can be and should be improving our underground operational planning and execution. What are we waiting for?
Yesterday's event in North Carolina should be a wake up call for us all to understand the magnitude of risk just below our feet.