CGA President & CEO's op-ed - Response to NUCA

Excavator Submissions To DIRT Improve Damage Prevention


As the people who put shovels, backhoes, trenchers, directional drills and more into the ground on a daily basis, excavators are incredibly important stakeholders of the Common Ground Alliance. Our goal of reaching zero damages is built around the philosophy that we have a shared responsibility to protect excavating professionals and the communities in which they work.

One of CGA’s most valuable resources in helping to reduce damages to buried infrastructure is our annual analysis of the data from our Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT). Both the tool itself and the resulting annual DIRT Report are the damage prevention industry’s only comprehensive national picture of how many damages occur, where they occur, and the circumstances and root causes surrounding their occurrence. DIRT data is critical for helping all stakeholders identify the areas in which we each can contribute to safer working and living environments.

Without mandatory damage reporting requirements in most states across the country, data submissions to DIRT are provided voluntarily. CGA has been focused on increasing participation and recruiting data from underrepresented stakeholders such as excavators. We know that without input from everyone who participates in the damage prevention process, we do not have a complete picture of what is happening, and that is a challenge we must overcome if we are to reach our goal of zero damages.

CGA is proud to count excavators and utility contractors among our membership and DIRT data submitters. All stakeholders have been able to report unmarked and mismarked buried facilities since DIRT’s inception in 2003.  There is no question that the root cause of an incident is a critical data point, and in 2018, CGA streamlined the DIRT data collection form, resulting in a more straightforward way to report these root causes. Through these revisions and our targeted outreach to excavating professionals, we have been able to significantly expand the picture that the DIRT Report paints about excavation. But we need more damage data from excavators — and other stakeholders — in order to get the full picture and tell the full story.

CGA’s consensus-based Best Practices Guide is in agreement with one of the primary calls to action from Utility Contractor’s recent contributed article, “Damage Prevention By The Numbers: Re-Examining Excavator Data.” The first practice listed in our chapter on reporting and evaluation calls for all stakeholders to report damages and near misses. We appreciate that the excavating and utility contracting communities are thoughtfully examining the importance of damage data reporting, and we welcome your data and input as we work together to protect excavators, communities and utilities. In addition, we encourage your participation in our committees. The more data we have results in a more accurate picture of what is actually taking place when an incident occurs. This means we can better focus our education efforts, and this ultimately means everyone will be safer on the jobsite.


This article was written by Sarah K. Magruder Lyle, President & CEO of the Common Ground Alliance

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