Damage Prevention is About Communication

by admin in Blog

Damage Prevention is About Communication

By Brent A Fleury

Every time an excavator digs close to a line he worries that the underground network could have been damaged. Every time a locator investigates a damage he hopes the locate was accurate. No matter what our job title is, those of us in the damage prevention community hear about a damage and wonder what could be done differently to prevent it from happening again. This thought process is basically hardwired into our DNA. We ask ourselves this question over and over again, but when we explore the answer, do we always act on it and try something different? No excavator wakes up and says, “Today I’m going to cut off a utility.” Likewise, no locator wakes up and says, “Today I will save my paint and improperly mark the facility.”

Damage prevention training helps to build a culture of prevention within every organization that touches the excavation lifecycle (or, better yet, the “Damage Prevention Cycle”). If, at every toolbox talk, an excavator tells the crew to make sure they have all locate forms/stakeout reports in their hands to take to the jobsite, and to walk the area to validate the paint marks and flags, awareness is increased. If, every day before the shift starts, a locate supervisor tells the team to mark, sketch and COMMUNICATE the results to the excavator, awareness is increased. If an engineer takes the time to validate the utility conflict areas on the plan and communicates this information to the various stakeholders, awareness is increased. The end result of all this increased awareness is fewer damages.

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Organizations like Common Ground Alliance (CGA), regional CGAs, safety authorities who promote safety and safe excavation, Call Center outreach programs, and the North American Telecommunication Damage Prevention Council (NTDPC) all communicate specific messages or hold education sessions focused on specific topics to effectively communicate the message. Damage prevention is not solely about locating, or excavating with caution, or even call/click before you dig, although these activities are performed as part of the process. The key to reducing damages is active communication.

When you are visible and your damage prevention team members are accessible, you build confidence with various stakeholders. When you build an engaged network within your structure, you will achieve great results and build trust in the ability to deliver consistent results. In the telecom world, technicians are encouraged to drop in and say hello when they drive by an excavation site; to talk about the work and validate that all locate information is on site and there are no issues. In the event there are some concerns, the technician can contact the locate provider for immediate assistance.

North of the border, where I have worked my entire career, we see results of 0.2 – 0.4 damages per 1,000 locate requests in the telecom sector. These results don’t just happen, but are an example of how a fully-engaged damage prevention program delivers. These results mean customers have an extremely reliable network.

It is important for everyone to communicate in order to reduce damages. I encourage anyone working in telecom to engage with CGA at a regional and national level. Being an active participant develops skills in damage prevention and helps bring innovative ideas to the table. Encourage internal team members to be strong communicators with all stakeholders. Explore opportunities to increase awareness and reduce damages within your organization, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are great companies that provide consultation services to help you achieve your goal of zero damages.

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