What Lies Beneath


DIRT received more than 230,000 reports on damages and near-misses in 2021.

April 10, 2023
Grace Austin - Construction Executive

Industry experts call it the “Wild Wild West,” and it certainly could be considered a new frontier: private utility locating. While public utility locating is familiar territory, private utility locating is decidedly newer—and already changing rapidly. Public or private, utility location is imperative to safe and cost-effective construction. Hidden utilities can lead to damage, driving up costs and causing unexpected project delays. They can also be dangerous to both workers and the public, causing injuries and even deaths.

The Common Ground Alliance’s 2021 DIRT Report—which compiles information from CGA’s Damage Information Reporting Tool program—found that natural gas and telecommunications were the leading utilities damaged. DIRT received more than 230,000 reports on damages and near-misses in 2021. Clearly, the industry can do better.

Utility location mapping in the United States began in earnest in the mid-20th century, according to GPRS, a private utility-mapping company that was founded in 2001. As postwar development shifted into high gear, the utility industries realized that power, water, gas, phone and other utilities were now being installed in the ground—and there needed to be a better system to prevent service disruptions and accidents.

Reprinted courtesy of Grace Austin, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.


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