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CGA reports increased damage to underground assets in 2017

The 2017 Common Ground Alliance (CGA) annual DIRT report has found that damage caused by excavation activities to buried assets in the US has increased by 5.5 per cent since 2016.

CGA’s 2017 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report – which analyses data anonymously submitted by facility operators, utility locating companies, one call centres, contractors and regulators over the previous calendar year – estimated the total number of underground excavation damages in the US last year rose by 5.5 per cent to approximately 439,000 incidents.

The total number of incidents comprises reported damages and reported near misses in Canada and the US.

The rise in incidents reflects increased excavation activity between 2015 and 2017; the 5.5 per cent 2016 to 2017 increase is also significantly lower that 20 per cent increase between 2015 and 2016.

The report found that damages that occurred on a weekend were nearly twice as likely to have involved hand tools and 50 per cent of reported damages occurred between June and September in 2017.

Of the reported cases with an identified cause, 52.2 per cent occurred because of insufficient excavation practices, consistent with results from previous years.

Other root causes included: notification not made to the one call centre (23.5 per cent), locating practices not sufficient (16.8 per cent), miscellaneous (6.5 per cent) and notification practices not sufficient (1 per cent).

The top three facilities that were damaged during excavation were reported as being telecommunication lines (49 per cent), natural gas assets (28 per cent) and cable television lines (11 per cent).

While not observed across all locations, several reporting regions have shown an inverse relationship between the incidents and the use of Call Before You Dig services.

“As the leading source of utility damage data and analysis, CGA is constantly evaluating the statistical models we use to ensure we are producing the best possible report to guide our public awareness, education and training efforts in the damage prevention industry,” said CGA President and CEO Sarah Lyle.

“The latest DIRT Report shows that our collective challenge to reduce utility damage is increasing as excavation activity increases.

“CGA stands ready to support all damage prevention stakeholders in addressing this challenge through public awareness campaigns, Best Practices, regional partnerships, promotion of new technologies and offering resources to educate state policymakers on the importance of balanced and effective enforcement laws.”

CGA has made the findings of the report available via an interactive dashboard, accessible to the public through its website, allowing users to view and manipulate the data through the lens of a specific element, for example: damages by state, root cause analysis, etc.

The dashboard contains a series of visualisations that allow users to sort information through additional filters, giving damage prevention stakeholders a tool to focus on areas where they feel that they can have the biggest positive impact.

Established in 2000, the association is committed to saving lives and preventing damage to North American underground infrastructure by promoting effective damage prevention practices.

CGA has established itself as the leading organisation in an effort to reduce damages to underground facilities in North America through shared responsibility among all stakeholders.

For more information visit the CGA website.

If you have a report you would like published in Trenchless International contact Assistant Editor Chloe Jenkins at

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