Damage to underground services on construction sites, either through ground-working, or other on-site digging can be a significant cause of Construction Insurance claims.
The key to safe digging is understanding where underground services are buried before starting any project. Underground services can include cables, wires, pipelines and other equipment used by telecommunication, electricity, gas or water service providers.
Building contractors, ground workers, site engineers or any other contractor, looking to undertake on-site digging, should contact utility companies and service providers to find out what underground services are below or near their site, and plan their work accordingly.
Knowledge Is Key
Many Public Liability Insurance policies will contain exclusions for damage to underground services if you have not made reasonable efforts to check for and to locate them. By reasonable efforts, an insurer will not accept that it is enough to simply ask the site owner, or make an educated guess based on experience as to where underground services are located. All checks should be recorded and documented accordingly.
Traditionally, some builders have believed that they could tell whether there is anything buried underground based on above-ground conditions. In reality, many underground services are not as precisely marked as some people believe.
Markers aboveground are not always placed precisely over the item and may not indicate the exact depth. Many underground service lines often curve to avoid natural or man-made features between markers, all of which require careful planning.
Carefully checking before digging commences and obtaining clear and accurate records is the only way to accurately know what is beneath the ground before works commence.
Who Should I Contact?
There are several different options in terms of locating underground service locations, both free and pay service options, which you can call to find out where underground services are located:
Some of the common ones are listed below (note that this list is not exhaustive):
Can assist with telecommunications underground services. They can be contacted on 0800 917 3993 or by visiting www.openreach.co.uk.
#2 Energy Networks Association
Can assist with service enquiries for electricity and gas companies. Visit their website at www.energynetworks.org.
#3 National One Call
A useful service, which as their name suggests can provide an all-inclusive pay service, but there is also a free SelfPlan option should you prefer. They can be contacted on 0844 800 9957 or via their website www.national-one-call.co.uk.
Construction Site Best Practice
The following tips will assist in protecting your business and reducing the risk of Public Liability Insurance claims before work commences:
- Obtain all relevant utility plans
- Make sure the plans are clear and include all relevant services
- Use and maintain the correct locating devices
- Clearly mark all identified services
- Communicate these locations to all contractors on-site who may be involved in digging
It is also important not to ignore smaller jobs where it is easy to overlook the planning process - make sure your claim is not refused because you did not properly check and plan clearly.
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