hitting buried services

11 Methods to Prevent Telecoms Engineers from Hitting Buried Services

Somewhere in the UK right now gangs of telecommunications engineers are laying fibre optic cables.

And more often than not these engineers work for contractors who only get paid for the metres of fibre they lay.

So the more you lay, the more you earn.

But you can’t just allow gangs to tear through roads and pathways without safety controls.


Because telecoms engineers face the immediate risk of hitting buried underground cables.

This will not only result in significant financial losses, but can also pose a serious risk of injury to both engineers and the public.

In this blog, we will discuss the top 11 ways to prevent telecoms engineers from hitting buried underground cables in the UK.

These methods range from proper planning and preparation to using advanced technology and training. By implementing these measures, telecoms companies can ensure that their engineers can work safely and efficiently, without causing damage to the vital infrastructure that underpins our modern society.

Here are the top 11 ways to prevent telecoms engineers from hitting buried underground cables in the UK:

1. Obtain Accurate Cable Location Information: Before commencing any excavation work, telecoms engineers should obtain accurate information about the location of underground cables from the local utility company or cable network operator. This information can be obtained through a Dial-Before-You-Dig service.

2. Use Ground Penetrating Radar: Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is a non-destructive method of locating underground cables. Telecoms engineers can use this technology to detect and map the position of buried cables before commencing excavation work.

3. Implement Safe Digging Practices: Telecoms engineers should always use safe digging practices, including hand-digging, soft-digging or hydro excavation, to minimize the risk of damage to underground cables.

4. Use Cable Detection Equipment: Cable detection equipment can be used to locate underground cables. Telecoms engineers should ensure that the equipment is calibrated correctly and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Mark Cable Locations: Once the location of underground cables has been determined, telecoms engineers should mark the locations with flags, paint or other markers to help prevent accidental damage.

6. Create a Safe Digging Plan: Before starting excavation work, telecoms engineers should create a safe digging plan that takes into account the location of underground cables and other utilities.

7. Provide Training to Telecoms Engineers: Telecoms companies should provide NRSWA training to their engineers on how to locate and avoid underground cables, as well as safe excavation practices.

8. Conduct Site Surveys: Site surveys should be conducted before excavation work to identify any potential hazards, such as buried cables. This information should be shared with the telecoms engineers on-site. 

9. Follow Local Regulations: Telecoms companies should follow local regulations and guidelines for excavation work, including obtaining permits and notifying the relevant authorities.  

10. Use Cable Protection Measures: Where possible, telecoms companies should use cable protection measures, such as cable guards, to prevent damage to underground cables during excavation work.

11. Join Recognised Health and Safety Industry Safety Groups: Hitting underground services is unfortunately a common occurrence which is why several industry groups have taken up the challenge to help others prevent strikes.

Lee Cator said he is a real advocate of businesses joining or reaching out to these groups to not only learn about best practice but for shaping the industry.

Two groups we recommend telecoms clients and build partners joining are:

By following these top 11 ways to prevent telecoms engineers from hitting buried underground cables, telecoms companies can minimize the risk of accidental damage to infrastructure, reduce costs associated with repairs and downtime, and maintain the safety of their workers and the public.


Special thanks to Lee Cator and Darren Ackroyd for their contributions towards this blog.

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