In the last five years, Spire has grown fourfold. With a quickly growing employee base and millions of customers, preventing excavation- related damages has never been more important.
With significant and rapid growth comes challenges and opportunity, and damage prevention is no exception. As a company that operates in three states with differing laws defining the requirements for calling ahead of excavation, we now have more room for error.
Yet, despite the changes, we’ve seen a 10 percent reduction in damages in the last year, even though locate volume remained largely the same. Seeing improvements like this while changing and growing hasn’t been easy. But through collaborative efforts in both the company and the communities we serve, we’ve been able to achieve measurable results. We’ve achieved these results by remaining focused on a few key areas.
We collaborate across regions
As our geographic footprint grew, we knew we had to learn from each other and share best practices across the many regions we serve. We also relied, and continue to rely, heavily on collaboration across departments to reach as many stakeholders as possible, including field operations, safety, engineering, right-of-way and pipeline construction personnel.
We keep damage prevention on one team
Even with the differing laws and regulations, we knew we needed one constant damage prevention team, consisting of a manager and nine location-based damage prevention coordinators who do onsite investigations across the three states we serve. They also provide training and education for company personnel, excavators, public officials and the homes and business we serve.
We make good use of business systems
We implemented internal business systems that help us identify high-profile areas to pinpoint the excavation activities most likely to cause damage, and we distinguish which excavators are prone to damaging facilities.
We partner with local organizations
We believe in the power of partnerships, so we take an active role in many organizations across our footprint to promote damage prevention, including:
• Sponsoring national Common Ground Alliance (CGA)
• Partnering with Missouri Common Ground Alliance to present one of the largest damage prevention and excavation safety summits in the country
• Participating in the Alabama Damage Prevention Alliance
• Maintaining memberships with the Alabama Natural Gas Association, the Mississippi Natural Gas Association, the Missouri Association of Natural Gas Operators, and the Pipeline Association of Missouri
• Working with the Missouri Botanical Gardens to promote 811 and safe digging practices
• Serving as a resource for excavators and contract locators for the SITE Group of Missouri
• Collaborating with the American Public Works Association and community officials to promote damage prevention
Though we’ve seen success, we also know that continued improvement depends on our ability to learn, grow and adapt.
Today, we’re exploring ways to develop a predictive model that will forecast damage before it happens. We’re also continuing to develop educational opportunities and relationships throughout the industry.
So, as we look to the future of damage prevention, we’ll continue to explore new technologies and partnerships that will improve our facilities and provide a safer, more reliable infrastructure in the communities we serve now… and in those we aspire to serve tomorrow.
Alan Meyer is Damage Prevention Manager for Spire. He can be reached at email@example.com.