5 tips to avoid costly underground utility cable damage


There are many reasons why we bury utility cables underground. Safety is one of the primary reasons. It’s also very practical, as you can use the same trench for multiple cables. Then there’s the aesthetic benefits – no ugly wires or poles blocking your view.  

The only issue with underground utilities is when we need to excavate around them.

Water, gas, sewerage and most electrical and communications utilities are located underground. That’s quite a minefield to navigate around for anyone excavating. This is why utility locating services, like an underground cable locator, are so crucial when building, landscaping or earthmoving of any kind.

If you want to know how to avoid costly damage to underground utilities, we’ve put together 5 very helpful tips to steer you in the right direction.

Tip #1 – Planning

Scanning for underground cables

Your number one plan should be safety first. Often, safety issues can arise from miscommunication onsite. When you have multiple companies trying to locate an underground cable or pipe, it’s a communication nightmare. The easiest way to solve this is by employing one company that does it all. With one point of contact, there’s no room for confusion or misinformation.

Companies like Abaxa not only have the technology to scan for all subsurface utilities, they also have highly skilled operators. You’ll be assigned a damage prevention technician that will help you safely detect utilities. This includes DBYD utilities and the potential for untraceable utilities, deteriorated tracer lines and deep utilities, all dependent on your project scope and risk assessment.

A one point of contact plan will save you time and money and should any issues arise, you’ll only need to make one call to get it fixed.

Tip #2 – Onsite behaviour

It goes without saying that digging recklessly will eventually lead to problems. If you’re in charge of the excavation process, you need to make it clear to everyone on site how important it is to follow guidelines and procedures.

One error can cause a chain reaction – putting people’s lives in danger, disrupting the surrounding community and creating all kinds of financial and legal issues.

 Tip #3 – Use of locating services


You’ll no doubt have access to underground location plans. The two biggest issues if you decide to use these plans are:

  1. The plans may be outdated
  2. The plans may only indicate the presence of a cable or pipe, not their exact location. 

Today, we have advanced locating services that minimise, if not eliminate, the risk of damaging cables and pipes. Being able to obtain this accurate information speeds up the excavation process.   

Underground utilities that can be located by Abaxa include:

  • Copper and Aluminium Wire 
  • Fibre Optic Cable
  • Steel Pipe
  • Cast Iron and Ductile Iron Pipe
  • Concrete and Reinforced Concrete Pipe
  • Clay/Terracotta Pipe
  • Polyethylene Pipe
  • Polyvinyl chloride Pipe
  • Cross-Linked Polyethylene Pipe

Tip #4 – Manage Risk

If you are supervising the site, it is your job to manage the risk levels. If you decide to use existing location plans, which may be inaccurate, your level of risk goes up. On the other hand, if you decide to bring in a dedicated utility location company with skilled technicians, your level of risk decreases.

Abaxa uses a ‘3 Degrees Safety System’ for each job. Once the utilities have been located, the risk level for the next stage of the operation is clearly outlined.


Tip #5 – Learn from other’s mistakes

We all know that cutting corners doesn’t work. Often, it results in longer delays, higher costs and can put people’s lives at risk.

If you’re the decision-maker on a construction site, you have a duty of care to your workers and the surrounding residents.

The equipment used by Abaxa to scan for utilities is world-class and because of it, we are seeing less onsite incidents and injuries.

For over 30 years, Abaxa has been providing underground utility location services to ensure safety and improved productivity on worksites around Western Australia.

You can read more about Abaxa’s Utility Location Services here. If you have more questions about our services, get in touch with us today. 

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