One of the worst calls a contractor can get is when the foreman takes a deep breath and says “Boss, we had a utility strike on the project a few minutes ago. You might want to get out here.”

Last year that call was made nearly a half-million times according to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) which released the 2017 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report in October.

The report estimates that 439,000 excavation-related damages to underground facilities occurred in 2017, up 5.5 percent from a revised 2016 estimate.

The report, which analyzes all 2017 data submitted anonymously and voluntarily by facility operators, utility locating companies, one call centers, contractors, regulators, and others, used a refined statistical modeling process to reach its conclusion. It found that while estimated damages increased year over-year from 2015 to 2016 and again from 2016 to 2017 when excavation activity is considered, damages have effectively plateaued during these three years, as measured by ratios of damages to construction spending and damages to utility locate notifications from one call centers to their member facility operators.

The 2017 DIRT Report includes an analysis of when damages occur, by month and day of the week, for the first time, leading to several findings that can help damage prevention stakeholders. Specifically, the report found the following:

  • Damages that occurred on the weekend were nearly twice as likely to have involved hand tools (shovels, post-hole diggers, etc.) than those that occurred on a weekday.
  • Fifty percent of all reported damages occurred between June and September in 2017.
  • August was the month with the greatest amount of damage in 2017.

Among all damage reports with an identified and known root cause, the majority (52.2 percent) occurred because of insufficient excavation practices, continuing a trend from recent years where this was the top identified root cause in the DIRT Report. Other identified root causes were as follows:

  • Notification not made – 23.5 percent
  • Locating practices not sufficient – 16.8 percent
  • Miscellaneous – 6.5 percent
  • Notification practices not sufficient – 1.0 percent

Call 811

Damage prevention starts with one phone call, and since 2007 the phone number for that call has been 811. 811 serves as an easy-to-remember phone number for the professional excavators and for the damage prevention stakeholders who promote it. It is that simple.

ECAis examining ways we can strengthen our ties to CGA to help our members.

By Brandon Pensick, ECA President Email: [email protected]