The British Drilling Association (BDA) is the UK's trade association for the ground drilling industry.

Buried Services

Buried Services

Consider this picture of a road crossing in London. Where would you drill?

                                      Current Issues Buried Services

Buried Services are the greatest hazard to any drilling operation and not just in urban areas.

Damage to underground services can cause fatal or severe injury as well as significant disruption and environmental damage; it can also delay the project and incur considerable costs.

BDA in its guidance documents (see Publications) stresses that buried services should be located and avoided.

At any drilling position a hand dug inspection pit to 1.2 metre should be excavated prior to commencement of drilling.

This issue is ongoing in that many clients and drilling contractors are not sufficiently aware of the risks and not taking appropriate actions.

Working safely

A safe system of work has three basic elements:

  • planning the work;
  • detecting, identifying and marking underground services;
  • safe excavation/safe digging practices.


These key elements complement each other, and all three are essential when working near underground services.

Anyone planning or undertaking work that may disturb underground services must contact the owners/operators of those services for information about the location and status of the services. Those owners and operators should in turn provide any relevant information about the location of services in the work area. Service owners and operators should be prepared to help locate and identify the services (for example, by sending a representative to the site). Long-term plans or formal arrangements for co-operation may be needed with other utilities, local authorities and contractors who carry out road and footway excavation

Plan work to avoid underground services. Where this is not possible, develop plans to minimise the risk of damage to those services in the work area.

Detecting underground services will require information from those who own the services. Individuals with sufficient experience and technical knowledge should carry out a comprehensive survey of the work area using the appropriate survey tools and equipment.

More information please consult The HSE's guidance notes (HSG47) - Avoiding danger from underground services 

PAS 128 Launch

The new Publically Available Specification (PAS) 128 was launched on 30th June 2014. PAS 128 provides a specification to which utility survey practitioners have to comply.

New construction often conflicts with existing underground infrastructure. Existing underground utilities and their related structures constitute inefficiencies and risks on projects

Underground utility mapping and an engineering practice called subsurface utility engineering (SUE) have been developed and used to address this issue with great success in other international markets.

There is now a need for a standard to support the subsurface utility engineering (SUE)/utility mapping industry in the UK. Whilst there is significant knowledge and expertise in the industry, the market is largely unregulated.

This standard will help to increase market confidence regarding not just the definition and delivery of the SUE process but also the further professionalization of the industry.

For more information click here.  

 British Standards Institution (BSI) has published a new code of practice to standardise the way data on underground utilities are captured, recorded, maintained and shared.

PAS 256 Launch

The new Publically Available Specification (PAS) 256 was launched on 11th April 2017.

Accurate mapping of underground pipes and cables is needed to avoid damage by those undertaking excavations. There are more than three million highway excavations each year but little guidance for asset owners on how best to manage data records. This results in unnecessary excavations, BSI says.

The publicly available specification, PAS 256, Buried assets – Capturing, recording, maintaining and sharing of location information and data – Code of practice, has been created to address the variable quality, reliability and availability of existing data. Sponsored by the Institution of Civil Engineers, the PAS provides recommendations to improve the capturing, recording and maintaining of data related to buried assets.

PAS 256 is intended to be used alongside PAS 128.

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