Water & Wastewater Treatment

WWT October 2018

Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine

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Page 15 of 43

16 | OCTOBER 2018 | WWT | www.wwtonline.co.uk UTILITY STRIKES – THE FIGURES • The Utility Strike Avoidance Group (USAG), which comprises over 180 asset owners, industry groups and contractors, is making eff orts to improve the national data on utility strikes, following a model that has been successfully adopted in America, Canada and Australia • USAG's aim is to analyse utility strike health and safety incidents to determine what happened; when, where and how they happened; and why they happened. From there, they can understand current performance, measure improvements and, ultimately, fl ag up issues • USAG's latest report, due to be published this autumn, incorporates data on 2,700 utility strikes across the UK in 2015 and 2016, looking for patterns to shape guidance on best practice. For example, it found that the summer months, and July in particular, represent the highest risk period, while footpaths and carriageways are by far the most common location • However, USAG acknowledges that it is "less confi dent" in the results due to a decline in data submissions, particularly from the larger contractors and the utility companies, which appears to be a consequence of an eff ort to secure more detailed answers than the previous report • "Our challenge is getting more consistency over the reporting," says LSBUD managing director Richard Broome, who helped prepare the report. "Internationally, we've seen the value of good data, and we're really keen to bring that working practice to the UK to help everyone learn from each other" The Works: Utility Strikes PREPARATION I t is widely agreed that better preparation in advance of works commencing on site is critical if strikes are to be avoided, and that involves establishing the best possible mapping of the excavation area. One organisation that exists to simplify that task is LinesearchbeforeUdig (LSBUD) a free-to-use service that began life as linesearch.org in 2003, with Fisher German providing information on the networks of high-pressure fuel pipelines that, if ruptured, could result in a major disaster. It has since evolved: Pelican Corp brought the 'Before U Dig' element, introducing automation technology that meant users could receive plans within a matter of minutes rather than a couple of days, and the service now incorporates a range of asset owners, including most of the oil industry as well as gas, electric and telecoms companies. Water companies, though, have been slow to sign up. At present, the Northumbrian Water and Essex & Su' olk networks are covered, along with part of the Severn Trent network and Hafren Dyfrdwy, but the majority of the UK's water pipes are not on the database. "We've struggled historically with the water companies because there hasn't been as obvious a risk to the people working near their assets," LSBUD managing director Richard Broome says. "They're one of the biggest users of the data, but they're one of the least represented on the member side." LSBUD covers approximately 650,000km of underground utility infrastructure and wants to increase that to 1,050,000km – 70 per cent of the estimated 1,500,000km total – within the next two years, with the An employee of K M Plant uses a CAT and genny to scan for buried utilities eventual goal of reaching 100 per cent. LSBUD provides contact details for utility owners that are not members of the service, but as the current legislation allows these organisations 28 days to respond to enquiries, and some still send maps by post, the supply of information does not always match the requirements of the company carrying out the search. "At our Damage Prevention Day in June, contractors said one of the big problems was that there was o£ en a time pressure for the work," Broome adds. "Water companies in particular are looking to improve their leakage rates and customer service levels and they want to repair leaks ASAP, but that can potentially make it di¤ cult to do things properly." Further complicating the matter is that maps are o£ en found to be unreliable. For example, many water records originate from drawings that became micro¥ ches and then computer records; across each iteration, errors may have crept in, while changes to nearby roads or buildings can skew the original descriptions. Cost considerations may also lead to substandard work. Someone installing a cable might record that it was laid in the position the utility originally requested but instead have placed it at a shallower depth. Or, because removing an old utility from a site costs time and money, it may be le£ in the ground but still get recorded as removed in the plans. Murray Ambler-Shattock, strategic operations manager at K M Plant Hire & Groundworks Ltd, says: "The quality of documentation is surprisingly poor. "Occasionally you've got secondary gas pipelines laid in parallel alongside or underneath old pipelines, and the old pipelines are on the records but the new pipelines have never been added. It's staggering, but this does happen." managing director Richard Broome says. "They're one of the biggest users of the data, but they're one of the least represented on the member side." LSBUD covers approximately 1,050,000km – 70 per cent of the estimated 1,500,000km total – within the next two years, with the

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