Digging the DIRT on damage prevention internationally

PEL735 Digging the DIRT on damage prevention internationally

For 14 years the US Common Ground Alliance has been gathering data on damage to underground infrastructure — and near misses — caused by excavation activities.

Detailed analysis of this information is published in the CGA’s annual Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) report and used to provide recommendations to stakeholders on how best to prevent such damage.

The DIRT Report provides information such as the average cost of damage incidents by infrastructure type, the total cost of damage broken down by stakeholder group (facility owner, excavator, etc).

The granularity of information available is impressive. Since its 2015 DIRT Report the CGA has provided an interactive dashboard tool that allows industry stakeholders to conduct their own filtering and analysis.

There are nine individual dashboards that each highlight a specific concept: eg damage characteristics by state, damage cause analysis, etc.

The CGA its just published DIRT Report for 2016, and says the aim of this analysis is not to single out under-performers but rather to identify which factors may be most conducive to effective damage prevention by teasing out which regulations, enforcement policies, and other factors can be correlated with damage metrics.

It then asks, why stop there? “One thought that has been bubbling for a while among some in the damage prevention industry is this:  Why stop at state-to-state comparisons? Why not compare country-to-country?”

And it goes on to explain: “We do not know the answers to the following two critical questions:

1) Which country’s damage prevention paradigm results in the fewest damages per notification, excavation event, dollars of excavation, or other metric/proxy for excavation activity?

2) Which country’s damage prevention paradigm results in the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) for the facility owner?”

Making those comparisons would clearly be dependent on other countries having damage reporting regimes as comprehensive as the CGA’s.

The DIRT Report does not go so far as to explore this possibility.Rather, it singles out aspects of the US damage control regime thatmight reduce the number of damage incidents,but have the potential to add cost to the industry.

As it points out, while total reducing damage is clearly the number one priority, the contribution of the damage prevention regime to total cost of ownership costs cannot be ignored. “No facility owner or excavator has an infinite budget for damage prevention. Perhaps a metric such as damage prevention cost per excavation activity would be helpful in this assessment.”

The example it uses is the 48 business hours window that excavators must wait after notifying 811 before they can commence work. “If an excavator needs to work the next weekend and it’s now Thursday at 10am in a state with a 48-hour response time, they can notify 811 now but not legally begin work until the following Monday at 10am.”

The DIRT Report notes that there are other aspects of the damage prevention regime that other countries appear to address more effectively than the US and closes with a call to action.

“The bottom line is that the CGA Data Reporting and Evaluation Committee, Best Practices Committee, Technology Committee, and the CGA itself should seek to acquire data, metrics, and analyses regarding damage prevention results in other countries, perhaps igniting further industry brainstorming and insights into what improvements may help us further improve damage prevention results.”

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