Damage Prevention, Locating, and Data

The introduction of the DIRT report in 2003 was a major turning point for the Damage Prevention industry. As each year has passed, and the data has become more accurate and complete, the report has allowed industry leaders and stakeholders to make informed decisions about Damage Prevention programs and assess their impact. The CGA states on its own website that, “Data informs nearly every aspect of CGA’s operations and industry recommendations.” With the publication of the 2015 DIRT report we can see that collectively the industry is driving damages lower. Data underpins all of these advances.

However, while the overall damage rate is falling, the needle isn’t really moving on the portion of damages attributed to “locating practices not sufficient.” From the DIRT report we can see that the percentage has been stuck at 16-17% for the last 4 years. Why is that? More companies are investing in training programs and focusing on the quality of locating. Locate equipment is becoming easier to use and more accurate; but we aren’t moving the ball forward. We need to understand why. We need more data.

Now, a new data revolution is taking shape; locate data can now be logged. All of it. Every second, with no input from the user. Now, we can make improvement decisions based on facts and data instead of anecdotes and opinions.

A 3-step approach for driving to zero locate damages
Can we get to zero? Human nature dictates that mistakes will happen, but the airline industry has shown us that with the right approach to continuous improvement, accidents can be driven to astonishingly low levels. Certainly, some of the keys to success in aviation safety was the introduction of the checklist for pilots and crews, and the black box flight recorder which allows for data to be recovered and analyzed when accidents or near misses do occur. We can learn from this approach in the locating industry.

With this in mind, we recommend a 3 step process for continually improving the accuracy and repeatability of locating.

Step 1 – Use the best available technology to verify the accuracy of locates
Choose products that have been designed with the user in mind and which have modern features to make locating easier and more accurate. Choose a locator that delivers precision by design and is built with expertise.

Step 2 – Establish reliable and repeatable methods to ensure best practices are followed
Verify that all operators have the correct training and safety management skills to locate and mark buried utilities. With reliable methodology, if two people perform the same task they will get the same result; this reduces outcome variability. This is how modern industry drives closer to zero defects, and the same can be true for the locating industry. Those methods can then be assessed and improved using Step 3.

Step 3 – Ensure that onsite behaviors are consistent by effective supervision and monitoring and through the collection and analysis of locate data
Even when the first two steps are followed, they will not be effective unless the tools are used correctly and procedures are properly followed.

We need to continuously improve our practices by reviewing and changing based on data. That’s how we can drive to zero damages.

At Radiodetection we’ve built our locators to support the Damage Prevention industry in this task by recording data. This data-logging functionality records key locator parameters every second and stores the logs in an on-board memory. Stored data includes the mode, frequency, signal strength, the sensitivity setting of the locator, the depth of the located service and many more parameters. Built-in GPS is available on selected models and this data is also stored in the logs.

With the data that is logged, stakeholders can verify that locators were used correctly and assess the compliance to procedure. This information can then be used to identify process improvement needs.

By promoting the 811 message and by implementing the three step approach to locating we believe that we can achieve our shared goal of reaching zero damage.

Peter Mann is the Sales Director for Radiodetection USA. Peter has held a variety of positions within Radiodetection over the last 25 years and is committed to promoting damage prevention.

Steve Nichols is the Western Regional Sales Manager for Radiodetection. Steve is active in the CGA and is a frequent presenter at damage prevention conferences around the United States. 

Radiodetection’s values are aligned with CGA’s goal of reaching zero damages and is proud to feature the 811 logo on their locators as well as their continued commitment to the work of the CGA.

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