Understanding whether what went wrong was avoidable or ‘just one of those things’ requires an expert analysis of compliance with best practice in published guidance and standards. The Health and Safety Executive’s guidance note HSG47, Avoiding danger from underground services, sets out a safe system of work, but it is not always afforded the little space it needs in a ground investigation, especially when an increasingly commoditised surveying market will always contain someone who cuts corners and costs. Furthermore, clients do not always appreciate that HSG47 also places responsibilities on them. As a result, delays, excessive costs and health and safety incidents are more common than they need to be, which can lead to claims.
Any of a number of common shortcomings may become apparent during a case. Not everyone hand digs; it can take time. Not everyone gets a full set of service records; they cost money and might not come through before the deadline imposed for start of site work. The detection survey is sometimes not done; it too takes time and requires geophysical expertise that might need to be contracted in. HSG47 requires it though and that it be done by individuals “with sufficient experience and technical knowledge… using the appropriate survey tools and equipment”.
To understand what that means turn to the appropriate British Standard: Specification for underground utility detection, verification and location, which is often referred to by its document code, PAS 128. For detection surveys (referred to as Type B), the specification requires that two geophysical detection methods are used so that all services, not just metallic ones, can be detected. This is typically electromagnetic location detection and ground-penetrating radar. Not all detection technologies are the same. Client should work with geophysicists to determine the best equipment and survey design given the specific site and ground conditions expected – HSG47 says so.
RSK can act as an expert in cases involving loss because of inaccurate or incomplete maps of buried services, which may have required changes to the project design, disrupted the project timeline or incurred direct project costs for repairing damaged services and compensation to the service owners.
To discuss any relevant expert witness issue or geophysics problems, please contact George Tuckwell (+44 (0)1442 437500).