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Are you cutting corners on utility searches to save money?

Posted on 5/06/2023 at 1:56 PM by in Blog

When it comes to excavation or construction work, one crucial step that should always be taken and maintained is conducting thorough utility searches.

Utility searches involve identifying the location of underground services such as gas, water, electric, and telecommunication lines before any digging or construction takes place. This is the first step in the process for safe excavation HSG47 guidance.

However, some individuals or companies may be tempted to cut corners on utility searches to save money or expedite the project. But the consequences of hitting a cable or pipeline without conducting proper utility searches can be severe, both financially and in terms of safety.

In this blog, we will discuss the potential consequences you could face for cutting corners on utility searches for your construction project.

How much does a utility search cost?

With Cornerstone Projects, a full utility search starts at £58 plus VAT and disbursements per utility. You can get a free quotation on our website for an exact figure.

The disbursements per search can range from £0 to over £200, depending on your site location and search requirements. We provide a thorough outline of all the costs involved so you know exactly what to expect. We are also transparent in our pricing – disbursements are passed on at cost.

A full utility search will provide information on any buried mains utilities, like electricity cables, gas pipes and water and sewer, cable/fibre and independent utilities that may run across your construction project. You can locate these items and make a plan to avoid them without causing any damage.

Compared to unlimited fines, legal liabilities and the risk of injuries, £58 + VAT plus disbursements is a small price to pay.

You could face costly fines

One of the immediate consequences of hitting an underground service line without conducting proper utility searches is the potential for costly fines and compensation.

Fines for breaches in Health and Safety are unlimited in the UK. So, if you cut corners in a bid to save money on your construction project, you risk facing a huge fine that could have detrimental consequences.

For example, in 2022, Siemens Energy Ltd was fined £900k by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK, along with £6.3k in costs, for breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015.

The incident involved an employee’s retina being damaged during an explosion caused by a cable strike during construction works. The subcontractor, VolkerInfra Ltd, had not properly completed the permit to dig, and the existing live cable had not been identified due to inaccurate cable markings.

You risk stopping your project altogether

Hitting an underground service line can result in a temporary interruption of service. If a gas, water, or electric line is damaged, it must be repaired before it can be used again. This can cause inconvenience to customers and communities who rely on that service.

For example, a gas leak caused by hitting a gas pipe may require shutting off the gas supply to an area until the damage is repaired, which can disrupt businesses, households, and other activities that depend on gas service.
The possibility of lawsuits

In addition to fines and compensation, hitting an underground service line without proper utility searches can result in legal liabilities. Companies, individuals, and supervisors involved in the excavation or construction work may face liability claims if they cause damage to someone’s assets by accidentally hitting an underground service line with their equipment.

Legal liabilities can result in costly lawsuits, settlements, and damage to the reputation of the responsible parties. It is important to note that legal liabilities may not be limited to just the immediate parties involved in the excavation or construction work but can also extend to other stakeholders such as property owners, utility companies, and third parties who may have been affected by the damage.

People could be injured

Perhaps the most severe consequence of hitting an underground service line without conducting proper utility searches is the risk of severe injury or even death.

Hitting a high-voltage electric cable or a high-pressure gas pipe can result in explosions, fires, burns, electrocution, and other life-threatening incidents. Safety should always be the top priority in any construction or excavation project, and proper utility searches are a critical step to ensure the safety of workers and the public.

In the case of Siemens Energy Ltd mentioned earlier, an employee suffered retina damage from an explosion caused by a cable strike during construction works. Such incidents can have devastating consequences for the individuals involved, their families, and the community at large.

Your insurance could go up

In addition to the financial consequences, cutting corners on utility searches can also lead to increased insurance premiums.

Insurance companies may view companies that do not follow proper utility search procedures as high-risk and may charge higher premiums as a result. This can add to the project’s overall costs and impact the company’s bottom line.

You could lose the trust of your client

Another consequence of damaging underground services is the loss of client trust. Clients expect construction and excavation companies to follow all necessary safety protocols, including utility searches, to prevent any damage or disruption to their property or infrastructure.

Failing to do so can result in a loss of client trust, leading to a damaged reputation and loss of future business opportunities.

Can you afford to cut corners?

Cutting corners on utility searches to save money is a risky and irresponsible approach that can have severe consequences.

The potential fines, compensation, temporary service interruption, legal liabilities, and the risk of severe injury or even death far outweigh any perceived cost savings.

Mitigating risks through thorough utility searches

It is essential to conduct thorough utility searches before any excavation or construction work to accurately identify the location of underground services and take appropriate measures to avoid damage.

Proper planning, communication, and coordination among all parties involved in the project, including contractors, subcontractors, and utility companies, are essential to ensure the safety and success of the project.

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