Facts and Figures about utility strikes

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 πŸŒŽ A Global Perspective on Utility Damage and Injury Prevention Statistics.

The importance of managing underground utilities safely cannot be over addressed, with countries around the world grappling with the consequences of damages and injuries from utility strikes.


These incidents not only pose significant injury risks but also incur substantial damages.  Here are some overview statistics from dial before you dig one-call service.

🚨 Most of the damages, 86%, can be attributed to three main causes:
-No notification to the (DBYD/Before You Dig) One-Call center. (29%) πŸ“΅
-Failure to pothole πŸ•³ and/or maintain sufficient clearance. (29%) 🚧
-Utilities not marked or marked inaccurately due to locator error. (28%) ❗


πŸ“˜ (DIRT) Reports of Utility Strikes by Equipment type suggest, Backhoes accounted for about half of reported incidents, with hand-tools accounting for about 20%, followed by Boring/Directional drilling at 15%.


πŸ“ˆ The types of work that report significant utility strikes are: Mechanical Excavation (63%), Construction (15%), Vertical Boring (9.5%), Vegetation Management (5.9%) and Manual Excavation (5.5%).


πŸ”Ž In this blog, we take a look at the facts and figures, to give awareness of the risks and hazards involved with subsurface utilities and to help inspire innovative solutions to get to a zero damage and zero injury system.


We cover statistics and key takeaways from United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ United States of America DIRT Reports

The critical issues and challenges faced by the industry in th US, emphasizing the need for significant improvements in safety and efficiency.


With a focus on reducing damages by 50% within the next five years, this calls for unprecedented collaboration across the sector, innovative technologies, and a rigorous examination of root causes.

This analysis not only highlights the financial and societal costs associated with such damages but also underscores the environmental implications and the urgent need for action.

πŸ—οΈ Key Takeaway Facts, Figures and Statistics.

  • The goal is to reduce underground utility damages by 50% within five years.
  • Annual societal costs from damages amount to $30 billion.
  • Utility strikes lead to over 2,000 injuries and 400 deaths each year.

Analysis and Recommendations from DIRT Damage Information Reporting Tool 2022.

Here's a list of key takeaways from the 2022 DIRT Report:

βœ… Reduce underground utility damages by 50% within five years.
βœ… Unprecedented industry-wide cooperation is crucial.
βœ… Identifying and addressing persistent root causes of damages is essential.
βœ… Highlighted as a significant issue needing immediate action.
βœ… Emphasis on adopting new technologies and innovative practices for damage prevention.

βœ… Chicago's damage reduction efforts are presented as a model for effective collaboration and planning.
βœ… Introduced to enhance reporting, accountability, and insights into damage prevention efforts.


These points summarize the report's findings and recommendations to improve safety and efficiency in handling underground utilities.


The 2020 DIRT report by the Common Ground Alliance highlights critical insights into damages to underground infrastructure, with significant impacts on societal costs, safety, and the environment. 

βœ… An estimated $30 billion in societal costs annually from underground infrastructure damage in North America.


βœ… Every 62 seconds, an underground utility strike occurs in the U.S., leading to over 2,000 injuries and 400 deaths yearly.


βœ… The top five root causes of damages are largely preventable through better policies and practices, including the failure to notify before digging and errors by excavators and locators.


βœ… The telecommunications industry reports the most damages, reflecting the widespread impact across various utility sectors.


βœ… Environmental consequences of damages include greenhouse gas emissions, hazardous liquid spills, sewage releases, and water supply losses, emphasizing the importance of robust ground disturbance policies to prevent such damages.

πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ United Kingdom UK DIRT Reports

This summary aims to shed light on the scale of the problem, the fragmented state of underground asset information, and the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate these risks, safeguarding both public safety and economic well-being.

πŸ—οΈ Key Takeaway Facts, Figures and Statistics.

  • NUAR Cost-savings estimated at Β£347 million per year over 10 years.
  • 4 million holes and excavations are dug across the UK each day.
  • 60,000 utility strikes each year.
  • Β£2.4 billion in costs due to utility strikes per year.
  • NUAR's cost-saving is estimated at Β£347 million yearly over a decade.
  • There are 60,000 utility strikes each year, costing Β£2.4 billion.
  • Across key suppliers to Highways England, there can be as many as one utility strike per day on average. The most significant incidents have tragically resulted in fatalities and life changing injuries.

β€œApproximately four million holes and excavations are dug across the UK. The data relating to underground assets is currently held in lots of different locations, it's very fragmented, and varies significantly in quality and format.

β€œEvery time a hole is dug it carries risk in terms of causing damage or injury and there are 60,000 strikes each year. The estimated cost of those utility strikes is just short of Β£2.5 billion pounds per year to the UK economy.

USAG Utility Strike Report 2020
The report summarizes the key findings of 2070 utility strikes across the UK during 2020 based on responses from 43 USAG Members (including 10 with no strikes reported).

πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ Canada DIRT Reports

The reporting of damages and injuries cased by excavation practices in Canada give great context to see emerging patterns in the industry. Statistics are from Canadas Common Ground Alliance and Reports.

πŸ—οΈKey Takeaway Facts, Figures and Statistics.

  • 1 in 4 damages due to not making a locate request.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 damages involve hazardous/life
    threatening facilities.
  • Societal cost of damage to buried assets is estimated to be
    over 1.2 Billion dollars.
  • More than 48 damages occurred per workday.
  • The total number of damages Canada-wide is 11,949,
    which is a drop of 0.8% from 12,041 in 2018.
  • Natural gas (46%) and telecommunication (39%) facilities were
    affected in 85% of damages.
  • Hoe/trencher was the most common equipment type
    used in damages (60%). Equipment type was omitted in
    18% of reported damages.
  • Work on water and sewer systems accounted for
    24% of damages.
  • The most common known root cause of damages was
    excavation issue (39%).
  • Note that damages are reported to DIRT on a voluntary
    basis and thus do not reflect the total number of damages
    that take place in a year in Canadian provinces.

πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί Australia IDIG Reports

The raising trends of costs of utility strikes in Australia is concerning and need to be addressed with actions to spread awareness and provide context to cost benefit of utility locators for any construction project.

πŸ—οΈ Key Takeaway Facts, Figures and Statistics.

  • Electrical hazards and telecommunications strikes are prominent, with 20,000 network strikes reported yearly.
  • Reported incidents mainly stem from mechanical excavation, highlighting the need for better risk management strategies.
  • Australian pipeline failure rates are 10–20% of the international mean.

Here's a summary list of facts, figures and statistics in Australia:


βœ… Electrical Hazards: Up to 30 excavators contact power lines annually, risking electrocution or severe injury.
Telecommunications Strikes: 20,000 network strikes reported yearly, with $20 million in damages.


βœ… Reported Incidents: 6,594 incidents reported to Dial Before You Dig, mainly from mechanical excavation.


βœ… Common Incidents: Include water main floods, gas pipe explosions, telecommunication disruptions, and contamination.


βœ… Gas Dangers: Immediate or delayed gas escapes can lead to fires or explosions.


βœ… Electrical Injuries: Risks from electric shock, arcing current effects, and potential fires or explosions.


βœ… Petroleum/Oil Pipeline Risks: Similar hazards to gas assets with additional environmental concerns.


βœ… Water and Sewer Concerns: High-pressure water or damaged sewer lines can lead to contamination or infrastructure damage.


βœ… Telecommunications Hazards: Disruptions can isolate communities and pose risks from optical fibres.


This encapsulation highlights the significant risks and financial impacts of damaging underground utilities.

πŸ‡³πŸ‡Ώ New Zealand Reports

The New Zealand public funds a in direct costs of utility strikes to the tune of $2.5 Billion every year.

πŸ—οΈKey Takeaway Facts, Figures and Statistics.

  • Utility strikes cost New Zealand $89 million in direct costs annually and up to $2.5 billion in indirect costs, equating to 1.17% of GDP.
  • Reveal, a New Zealand-based company, is pioneering in providing technology-based solutions to mitigate these risks through enhanced data visualization and a comprehensive digital platform.

Here's a list based on the problems identified by Reveal company approach to its underground utility risks:

βœ… Problem Identification: Underground utility strikes in New Zealand cost $89 million in direct and $2.5 billion in indirect costs annually.


βœ… Founder's Background: Sam Wiffen, with engineering experience, founded Reveal to address the lack of accurate underground utility information.


βœ… Innovation Drive: Transition from traditional locating services to a technology-based solution.


βœ… Solution Approach: Utilization of geophysical tools for better visualization and accessibility of subsurface data.


βœ… Digital Platform: Development of a cloud-based platform integrating various data sources for a comprehensive underground utility model.


βœ… Application: The platform has been employed in significant projects like the Christchurch earthquake rebuild and the Riverlink project.


βœ… Team Diversity: Reveal's success is supported by a team with varied expertise.


βœ… Global Expansion: After its eleventh anniversary, Reveal is expanding into markets in Australia, Singapore, and the US through partnerships.

Conclusion 🏁

Each country's approach to handling underground utilities reveals a common theme. The critical need for enhanced visibility, stringent policies, and innovative technologies to mitigate risks.


As we move towards a more connected and infrastructurally complex future, the lessons and strategies from these nations will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping global best practices in utility damage prevention.

Resource Links:

https://infrastructuremagazine.com.au/2023/09/05/looking-deeper-solving-the-problem-of-underground-utility-risk/
https://1spatial.com/news-events/2022/1spatial-and-the-national-underground-asset-register-project-nuar/
https://www.highwayssafetyhub.com/uploads/5/1/2/9/51294565/common_intent_-_utility_strike_avoidance_-_final_v1.2a.pdf
https://lsbud.co.uk/damage-prevention/
https://downloads.safedigs.co.uk/lsbud_website/pdfs/lsbud-damage-prevention-day-2023-review.pdf
https://www.utilitystrikeavoidancegroup.org/
https://www.utilitystrikeavoidancegroup.org/reports/
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-underground-asset-register-nuar
https://lsbud.co.uk
https://www.canadiancga.com/resources/Documents/DIRT-Reports/National%20DIRT%20report%202020%20-%20CCGA%20September%202021.pdf
https://horttrades.com/assets/1609949491.DIRT_-_2019-Eng-Final.pdf
https://utilitysafety.ca/learning-centre/damage-reporting/
https://www.canadiancga.com/resources/Documents/DIRT-Reports/2022-DIRT-English-Final.pdf
https://www.byda.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/BYDAs-forum-May-2023.pdf
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S092575351730588X
https://blog.iseekplant.com.au/blog/horror-statistics-queensland-construction-1
https://infrastructuremagazine.com.au/2023/09/05/looking-deeper-solving-the-problem-of-underground-utility-risk/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/common-ground-alliances-2022-dirt-report-uncovers-disturbing-trends-ktclf?trk=article-ssr-frontend-pulse_more-articles_related-content-card

https://commongroundalliance.com/Portals/0/Common%20Ground%20Alliance%20DIRT%20Annual%20Report%202022%20-%20FINAL%20(1).pdf?ver=2023-09-21-185548-703

https://sitemap.com/articles/the-role-of-sitemap-in-enhancing-construction-safety-protocols/

https://kpa.io/blog/the-direct-and-indirect-costs-of-construction-injuries/#:~:text=For%20construction%20companies%2C%20the%20average%20cost%20of%20one,according%20to%20the%20Workplace%20Safety%20and%20Insurance%20Board.


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