Think before you dig

November 26, 2020

RSK is now responsible for digging approximately a quarter of all intrusive locations in the UK. This includes boreholes, window samples and trial pits. There are several RSK group businesses that undertake intrusive investigations, including Structural Soils, Central Alliance, Geocore, RoC Consulting, Ian Farmer, Up and Under and Dynamic Sampling. All of which consider health and safety top priority. SafeGround, RSK’s dedicated buried infrastructure detection and mapping service, offers expertise and advice on service avoidance to help ensure that safe digging procedures are implemented and followed across the group. Providing on-site mark-out surveys ahead of ground-breaking activities, SafeGround’s aim is to keep the workforce safe by reducing cable strikes.

In light of Construction Enquirer’s recent article, ‘Cable strikes jump 20% since lockdown’, this seems increasingly pertinent. The piece reports that “Underground powerline strikes from July to September alarmingly jumped 20% to 475 incidents compared with the same time last year.

“[…] It is not clear whether the surge has come from a rise in utility and roadworks or whether workers returning from furlough or shutdown are now neglecting basic safety procedures,” the article continues. However, the statistic, “almost a third (31%) [of construction workers] admitted to not always checking for underground electricity cables before beginning work,” is telling.

Through its safe working culture and Permit to Dig procedures, RSK has always maintained the importance of having a robust safe system of work in order to avoid service strikes.

“RSK follows best practice as set out in the HSE guidance “HSG47 Avoiding Danger from Underground Services” and has produced its own SHEQMS Guidance on the Avoidance of Buried Services,” comments Principal SafeGround Geophysicist Gerwyn Leigh. “This sets out a safe system of work that our site investigation teams rigorously follow”.

This safe system of work is a result of careful planning for each and every site investigation undertaken on a site-by-site basis.

“Firstly, up-to-date service plans are obtained by our in-house desk-based utilities team,” explains Gerwyn. “We can identify main service routes and use suitable locating equipment to locate and therefore avoid those services. When on site, our competent geoscience and drilling staff undertake site walkovers with those plans to identify service covers and access points, highlighting discrepancies with what is shown on the plans and move away from potential buried services”.

RSK SafeGround utilise trained, competent geophysicists to provide PAS128 ground penetrating radar (GPR) service detection to locate known services, private or unrecorded services and buried obstructions, and therefore to avoid them and find safe locations to for the site investigation teams to dig.

Furthermore, RSK site investigation staff are trained to undertake CAT & Genny surveys and will complete a Permit to Dig prior to breaking ground. Hand dug pits and vacuum excavations are also completed in order to safely search and uncover any other undetectable services in the shallow subsurface, before safely undertaking drilling and deeper site investigation. All of these components of the safe system of work help reduce the risk of service strikes and allows RSK to work as safely as possible in these challenging times and in all sites and environments.

Clearance and window sampling

“Not all of these steps may be necessary at every site,” concludes Gerwyn. “Site investigation teams assess the nature and history of each site to determine what is necessary to undertake the work as safely as possible. SafeGround offer expertise and advice to help assess which components of the safe system of work are required whilst reducing the risk of service strikes. With our in-house geoscience, site investigation and drilling teams, we aim to ensure all intrusive work is conducted safely.”

For more information about RSK SafeGround and associated intrusive and non-intrusive investigation services, please contact Gerwyn Leigh.