The path to a safe and successful project starts with one phone call. Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the stakeholder-run organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the people who dig near them, has announced findings from its comprehensive 2011 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report.
The report, which is the sum of all 2011 data submitted anonymously and voluntarily by damage prevention stakeholders, confirmed the importance of making a free call to 811 to reach a local One Call Center as most critical to safety.
When an excavator notifies a One Call Center before digging, damage occurs less than 1 percent of the time, according to the report. The report also estimates the total number of damages could be reduced by 31 percent if all digging was preceded by a locate request.
The 2011 DIRT Report benefited from a significant increase in reporting from one stakeholder group: locators, the professionals who identify the approximate location of underground facilities by using paint or flags. The nearly 100,000 additional records submitted to DIRT this year, combined with the quality of those records, resulted in this year’s data being the most complete to date, scoring the highest ever Data Quality Index (DQI) since the metric was introduced in 2008.
“We know that calling 811 before digging is the single most important step in preventing underground utility incidents, and the growth in data submissions this year further affirms this important message,” said Bob Kipp, CGA president. “The 16 industries that comprise CGA are continuing to increase the quality of our data, which will help all stakeholders be more effective in targeting their outreach to the right audiences with meaningful messages.”
Because more complete data was submitted this year, CGA employed a new approach to estimate the total underground incidents for 2011. The new analysis used a linear regression model for the 11 states believed to have mandatory damage reporting. The result was that underground utility events continue to be a major problem, with 330,000 incidents estimated last year. Although this number represents a new baseline, the downward year-to-year trend in incidents since the report’s inception in 2004 continues to be valid.
The 2011 DIRT Report examined the root causes of 80 percent of all events submitted (up from 54 percent for 2010), and the top causes were identified as follows:
· Excavation practices not sufficient: 41 percent
· Notification not made: 26 percent
· Locating practices not sufficient: 22 percent
The percentage of known incidents listing “Notification not made” as a root cause dropped 6 percent from 2010 to its lowest point during the last five years, demonstrating the effectiveness of the 811 campaign.
As it did in 2010, the DIRT Report again provided recommendations to damage prevention stakeholders based on CGA’s data analysis. These include the identification of locator and excavator best practices, partnering with underground infrastructure utilities and industry associations to distribute educational materials about safe excavation practices and more.
The report also notes that occupants, farmers, building demolition, small fencing, irrigation and landscaping contractors were among the least likely audiences to call 811 before digging, suggesting that outreach be targeted to these groups.
“We strive to make the DIRT Report a valuable tool for both the industry and individual stakeholders,” said Bob Terjesen, co-chair of CGA’s Data Reporting and Evaluation Committee. “As more stakeholders contribute data to DIRT, that tool is strengthened for all of us. We hope this report helps stakeholders create the most effective and targeted damage prevention initiatives.”
The complete DIRT Annual Report for 2011 is available for download at www.commongroundalliance.com, and stakeholders interested in submitting data to the 2012 report or establishing a Virtual Private Dirt account should visit the DIRT site at www.cga-dirt.com.