Underground asset location advice from an expert

pel624 underground asset location advice from an expert

The Institute of Public Works, Engineering Australia, has a really useful article on its website, full of advice from a veteran locator of underground assets. Ben Minutoli, a director of Geelong Cable Locations, has been in the business for almost 20 years and is on the National Utility Locating Contractors Association committee.

Despite the Dial Before You Dig (DBYD) service, he says excavators are still causing far too much damage to underground infrastructure, and he offers some reasons why along with some advice on how to reduce this damage.

He cites lack of training as one of the main problems: field crews not trained to read the plans provided by DBYD showing the location of underground infrastructure; field crews not trained in the use of location technologies such as ground penetrating radar.

And although membership of DBYD is widespread, it’s not universal, so, he says, excavators can never be certain that the information provided shows all the underground infrastructure in the area where they are about to dig.

Furthermore, DBYD is only as good as the information provided by members, and this is not always accurate - especially where it relates to very old infrastructure. For example Telstra’s plans, he says, could be 40 or 50 years old (when the organisation was known as Telecom, and before that, an arm of the General Post Office). They were prepared for internal use only  - not for external services such as DBYD, which did not exist when they were drawn up.

However, Minutoli reserves his biggest criticism for one of the newest organisations to put infrastructure into Australian soil: The National Broadband Network company, NBN as it likes style itself these days.

He’s quoted saying: “The new plans coming out from NBN are absolutely disgraceful – they’re the worst I’ve ever seen.

There’s almost literally nothing on them, it’s a line on a map and that’s all. You can’t tell where you can hook on to it, you can’t tell if its laid by itself or with other cables, what size conduit it is in, there’s no details on it.”

There is however, some good news: the techniques for locating underground infrastructure, Minutoli says, are getting cheaper, and a certification in the use of location techniques recently introduced by DBYD will, he’ says, be a game changer enabling a contractor to call in a locator and have confidence in that contractor’s skills and ability.

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