Can you dig it?

LSBUD (LinesearchbeforeUdig) urges those on UK agricultural land to check before digging.

Research has shown that 67% of UK agricultural workers know someone who has struck an underground pipe or cable while digging, while 11% of these incidents ended in injury, 3% fatally so.

The study of more than 100 farmers in the UK by online safe digging resource LSBUD highlighted the scale of digging activity taking place on farms across the country. Around 57% of UK farmers are doing considerable excavation on their land at least once a month, with 11% stating that they are doing so daily. The depth of the excavation is also significant – 62% of UK agriculture workers are digging down three feet or more, with a quarter of all projects reaching depths of more than six foot.

LSBUD’s Richard Broome says: “Something that people forget is that in the UK we have pipelines carrying substances ranging from chemicals to oil – all likely to be at a very high pressure. These pipelines are often buried just two to three feet below the surface and the majority of the farmers we spoke to are operating in this depth range and deeper.

“Care and consideration must be factored in when putting a digger bucket, fence post or even spade into the ground. That said, even deep agricultural groundworks and the impact of heavy machinery at crossing points must be considered.”

With modern farming machinery, the ability to break ground faster and deeper than ever increases the risk of putting any worker in danger each time a farming operation is carried out. It’s also worth noting that 26% of incidents led to business disruption, flooding (17%), traffic disruption (8%) and total evacuation (1%); 8% caused environmental damage and 3% ended in significant fines. In 85% of incidents, there was significant damage to the underground asset.

So what can be done?

Accidents could be reduced by undertaking a simple check of underground assets. Despite the risks, 25% of UK farmers admit that they do not check for the whereabouts of underground pipes and cables before digging.

When asked why they don’t use an online system, 19% said it takes too long, 11% thought it would be too expensive and 4% said that they simply weren’t worried about hitting an underground pipe or cable. Broome says: “As a team dedicated to helping anyone across the country dig safely, and for free, we find this sentiment worrying to say the least.” Last year, LSBUD released an explosion awareness video in collaboration with a fencing contractor who was captured on video accidently knocking a fence post through a high-pressure gas pipeline.

With 11% admitting to having no idea what underground assets are beneath their land, a free, two-minute search should be a vital part of any digging project. Broome says: “To that 4% of agricultural workers who ‘aren’t worried’ about hitting pipes and cables, I urge you to reconsider. This research, from the industry, confirms that such strikes cause injury and sometimes even death. Let’s stay safe and always search before you dig.”

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Image credit | iStock



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