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 “50 in 5”: Damage Reduction Calls for Bold Industry Action
According to CGA’s Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report, the annual rate of damages to buried infrastructure in the U.S. has remained stagnant for most of the last decade, and costs the U.S. a staggering $30 billion every year. Each of the hundreds of thousands of dig-ins to underground utilities that occur annually has the potential to cripple communities and businesses by cutting them off from critical services, causing serious injury or even loss of life. Construction spending has increased steadily over time, and new investments into the country’s infrastructure suggest that this damage trend will continue unless the industry addresses the persistent challenges contributing to underground damages.
Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the national nonprofit trade association dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, people who dig near them and their communities, issued its “50 in 5” industry challenge in early 2023 with a goal of reducing damages to critical underground utilities by 50% in five years. The “50 in 5” challenge aims to address damages to our Nation’s critical assets head-on by bringing damage prevention advocates together around
a targeted set of strategic, data-driven priorities.
CGA’s industry challenge encourages the damage prevention industry to concentrate on three focus areas that prioritize critical issues identified by CGA’s Next Practices Initiative and the top damage root causes that contribute to more than 76% of damages to buried infrastructure, according to CGA's most recent DIRT Report:
1. Effective and consistent use of 811: DIRT data and market research
indicates that, while 811 awareness
is very high, particularly among professional excavators, 60% of damages to underground utilities are caused specifically by professionals
not contacting 811 prior to excavation. The issue is not awareness among professional excavators, but rather the lack of consistent and effective use of the 811 system that contributes to these damages. To help implement behavior change by these professionals, CGA unveiled a refreshed 811 tagline, “Safety is in your hands. Every dig. Every time,” along with excavator-focused outreach tools to encourage excavators to take
an active role in their jobsite safety through consistent use of 811. CGA’s Summer Summit, set to take place in Gulf Shores, Ala., from July 31-Aug. 3, will focus on the failure to notify root cause.
2. Key excavator practices (potholing, maintaining clearance, etc.): Potholing–or test holing–to confirm the location of buried utilities, and then maintaining the required clearance around those utilities, are key steps for protecting the integrity of underground infrastructure. These two excavation processes have long been CGA Best Practices (5.19 and 5.20), but continue
to be common causes of damages to buried utilities. Implementing potholing and maintaining proper clearance on the jobsite could dramatically reduce damages to buried infrastructure. CGA’s Next Practices Initiative highlights
one way that damage reductions were achieved by operators who contractually compensate excavators for potholing.
3. Accurate, timely utility locating:
CGA’s Locator White Paper and the work of the Next Practices Initiative reveal that improving the accuracy of facility maps and implementing
electronic white-lining would help locators complete their work more quickly and accurately. Efforts like
a Minnesota pilot program to make
811 ticket-level facility visualizations available to locators and other
system end users have the potential
to increase locating efficiency, among other systemic benefits. Decreasing over-notification practices utilized by both contractors and facility owner/ operators themselves would also help decrease overall 811 ticket request volume so locators’ workloads are more manageable.
With damage rates remaining static year-over-year, and increasing infrastructure investments foreshadowing even greater construction activity to come, the damage prevention industry is at
an important inflection point. We must take strong steps now toward reducing damages by addressing
the key areas of inefficiency that are contributing to damages. CGA’s “50 in 5” challenge is a response to this need for definitive action to drive damages down in a significant way. Every stakeholder involved in the damage prevention process should commit their organizations to contributing to CGA’s “50 in 5” challenge, making bold decisions and investments that will help cut damages to vital underground infrastructure in half.
For more information about CGA
and annual damages to buried infrastructure, including how your organization can become more involved in damage prevention, visit www. and dirt.
2023, Issue 2
Alabama 811
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