Don’t Dig Without TSA Guidance

Published: 04 Mar 2010

Every day, there are newspaper articles about near misses and accidents, even fatalities, disruption to supply and costs of repairs associated with strikes on utility plant and equipment buried in the ground. On average there are “12 deaths every year and over 600 serious injuries.”

In 2003 Dr Mike Farrimond of UK Water Industry Research commented that there are “75,000 incidents of third party damage costing £25million to repair” with “total direct and indirect costs to utilities, industry, society and government of over £3billion per year will continue to rise unless better information and more effective technologies can be made available to those doing the work.” Costs have increased significantly since 2003 but there is now greater recognition of the risk.

Many incidents are entirely preventable if appropriate action is taken prior to breaking ground. This would normally be a combination of desk study to gather all relevant records and historical data and survey by the utility companies themselves or experienced utility surveying companies or contractors with appropriately qualified staff. Methodology, techniques, equipment and knowledge all play an important part, but crucially the results need to be correctly interpreted and communicated clearly and precisely to the people working on site.

The Survey Association (TSA) has recently produced a new Guidance Note on Utility Surveys which includes detailed guidance notes for specifying a utility survey. This has been put together after much consultation and as a result of the confusion across industries of what may be required and how the likely results can improve risk when commissioning and undertaking a utility survey prior to any ground breaking.

If your project identifies any potential hazards in the ground and any associated risk then consult the TSA Guidance Note for Utility Surveys downloadable from and find an experienced TSA member company to help design a survey to minimise that risk. Neil Harvey, TSA President commented “TSA is incredibly proud that it has again put together a guidance note that will help inform professionals and contractors. Being web based it will be regularly updated reflecting advances in new technology and methodologies keeping it a live, dynamic document.

The Survey Association is keen to have your views and would welcome any feedback on the document from both clients and practitioners. Please pass any comments to the TSA office in Newark (details on the website)