Safely locating utilities Is the First Step in Preventing Utility Strikes

Preventing damage to buried utilities is an ongoing effort for utility providers, contractors who install utilities, and others who perform any type of construction or work that excavates or displaces the ground.

Damage to buried utilities disrupts essential services that are costly and time consuming to repair or replace. Utility hits also can cause severe injury and death – an equipment operator whose tool or machine cuts a power cable is at risk for serious shock or electrocution. Cutting or nicking a high-pressure natural gas line can result in a major disaster when migrating gas enters a building or buildings and is ignited by a pilot light or other flame.

While damage control initiatives have made great progress in recent years, much remains to be done. In fact, the latest Common Ground Alliance (CGA) Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) report estimates that in 2016 there were approximately 379,000 utility hits with direct costs to stakeholders conservatively estimated at $1.5 billion.

Randy Hawks, Americom’s Director of Utility Services stated “We often times find underground utility lines not marked properly by the municipality or utility company. Underground services such as Call Before You Dig are not always 100% reliable. Some records are several decades old. Taking locations for granted can be a costly mistake.”

CGA, the nonprofit, member-driven organization dedicated to establishing and promoting practices to prevent damage to underground utility infrastructure, is a driving force in developing guidelines that when correctly implemented help protect buried infrastructure, including Best Practices, and DIRT reports that provided data about root causes of accidents reported in confidence by industry stakeholders.

Most guidelines and best practices place accurately locating and marking existing utility as the first step in preventing accidental utility strikes.

“We continue to see less concerned companies attempting to secure contracts by eliminating the time it takes and the investment of equipment to properly locate utility lines before digging. This is not only dangerous but gives quality utility construction companies a bad reputation when gas, water, or electrical lines are carelessly damaged… Americom will never lower it’s standards of safety and protocol to win a job…The protection of crews, customers, and the public, as well as our 37-year reputation of doing things right the first time far outweigh the risk… we have our systems in place for a reason” says Pat Richter, CEO at Americom… “we will not compromise our quality and character.”

Americom’s commitment to providing each crew member and underground construction professional with the most comprehensive safety training, equipment, and procedures in the industry sets them apart. By utilizing innovative technologies, including utility locators, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) guidance equipment, and equipment machine controls, Americom has established itself as the premier source of underground utility installation, maintenance and inspection of underground pipe and cable. For more information, visit

Subsite Electronics contributed to portions of this article.