The recently released 2021 DIRT Report revealed that telecommunications and natural gas are the two types of facilities with the most reported damages last year, making up over 76% (36.8% and 39.8% respectively). To understand the circumstances that cause damages to these facilities to occur in such high volumes and to help reduce these incidents, the DIRT Report analyzes the telecom and natural gas industries in the section “Natural Gas vs. Telecom Facility Damages - A Closer Look.”
Natural gas and telecom facilities operate very differently and thus vary in how their damages occur. While the leading root cause group for natural gas facility damages is Excavation Practices, the leading root cause group for telecom is Locating Practices. Natural gas and telecom do have some of their top five root causes in common, however, including no locate request, failure to pothole/maintain clearance and insufficient excavation.
The type of work being done when these assets are damaged also differs between these two groups. Telecom stakeholders damage their own facilities and other service provider facilities within their industry about twice as often (14.22%) as natural gas stakeholders (7.18%). This suggests that telecom stakeholders can address a portion of the damages to their facilities by encouraging greater adherence to CGA Best Practices for their employees and subcontractors. It is important to note, however, that water is the leading known type of work being done when a damage occurs for both natural gas (15.89%) and telecom (15.35%), so better outreach to that stakeholder group could also help drive down damages.
Additionally, telecom facilities are often damaged at shallower depths than natural gas. When depth is provided, over 67% of telecom damages occur at a depth of 18” or less, compared to just 17.08% for natural gas facilities. This is due in part to federal and state pipeline safety regulations, which have depth of cover requirements—there are currently no equivalent rules for the telecom industry.
Telecom and natural gas each are the leading submitters of damage reports involving their own facilities, followed by excavators/road builders/engineering and then locators. Interestingly, natural gas damage reports have a much higher data quality index (DQI) of 82.57%, significantly greater than telecom’s DQI of 57.75%. More robust data from telecom damage reports would offer a more complete picture of the circumstances around their damages.
Reducing the high frequency of damages to both natural gas and telecom facilities is critical to driving down overall damage rates, but the DIRT Report demonstrates that the approaches to addressing these damages may vary between the two stakeholder groups. CGA encourages all damage prevention professionals to read the DIRT Report and its recommendations to understand how your organization and stakeholder group can contribute to the prevention of damages to crucial underground infrastructure.
Stay tuned for more deeper dives into the 2021 DIRT Report in future Damage Prevention Download emails. To read the full 2021 Report and to access the DIRT Dashboard, visit www.dirt.commongroundalliance.com.