Sterile strips are fertile ground for digging disasters

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If you think a sterile strip is bit of sticking plaster that you slap on your skin after losing an argument with a sharp object, think again. In the UK at least a sterile strip is the land on either side of buried pipelines or other underground infrastructure to which regulations apply that are designed to protect the infrastructure and the rights of its owners and operators.

According to Tiffany Salmon of Fisher German, a PelicanCorp partner in the UK, “If work is required to be undertaken within the sterile strip then permission must be obtained from the utility company or owner.”

She was writing in Shropshire Star, a newspaper serving the predominantly rural UK county of Shropshire (known throughout the English speaking world from “A Shropshire Lad”, a cycle of 63 poems by AE Houseman, but I digress).

The primary motive for Salmon’s article was to warn farmers that they can ignore the possibility of penetrating a buried pipeline, or cable when they are just replacing an old fence with a new one.

“Will the new fence have larger and deeper posts?” she asks, “Are you thinking of diverting the original line around a piece of scrubland?” These, she says are things that must be considered, along with any other farming and cultivation activity which disturbs the ground.

Fisher German is a firm of chartered surveyors and specialist property consultants that in partnership with PelicanCorp operates LinesearchbeforeUdig, the UK’s most powerful, free to use, online enquiry portal for utility infrastructure information. It was created in 2012 by the merger of PelicanCorp’s BeforeUdig service and Linesearch.org, a free service operated by Fisher German that had been in operation since 2003. At the time of the merger, assets registered with Linesearch.org represented over 200,000 kms of pipe and cable infrastructure. Today LinesearchbeforeUdig tracks the locations of the underground assets of 44 organisations.

LinesearchbeforeUdig also provides useful guidance for people who have to work in close proximity to high pressure pipeline, details about the differing marker posts and whose equipment they relate to, and produces a safe digging leaflet designed to be kept in workers’ toolboxes as a handy reference.

Infrastructure protection news brought to you by PelicanCorp