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Duty to Protect

Duty to Protect

It is a key requirement of health and safety laws that you as an employer or employee know your duty to protect yourself, those working around you and the wider community when it comes to working in proximity to utility network assets such as underground cables and pipes.


Listed below are an overview of the key guidelines that must be observed to keep those digging near utility assets safe and prevent damage.

Duty to Protect
Duty to Protect

Key Guidelines

  • A LSBUD enquiry must be made giving as much notice as possible of your intention to dig at your worksite.
  • Before commencing works utilities with assets present as detailed on the enquiry confirmation sheet must be received, read and understood.
  • Where a non-member of LSBUD asset owner listed is on the ‘blue list’ of the enquiry confirmation sheet you must contact all of these separately and await a response.
  • When all asset owners have responded you must engage a competent utility locate and survey in accordance with BSI PAS128 standards to scan and mark up on the ground the location and depth of assets and provide a post survey report.
  • Where possible and using asset owner plans and the post survey report you should ‘design out’ any potential conflicts between your project works and assets present.
  • If the scope of works changes or validity dates of plans expire due to a delay in works, a new LSBUD enquiry must be submitted and plans received.
  • Once onsite ensure a safe system of work has been documented and implemented and that all workers understand the asset location plans and safe work instructions from affected asset owners before work commences.
  • Before starting work observe the work site closely and look for clues of any other surrounding utility assets. Such as pits, marker posts, warning signs, meters, etc. Changes may have occurred to the area without the knowledge of the asset owner or utility survey due to other project works which may change the alignment and / or depth of utility assets already present.
  • If plans and utility survey data are showing there are any buried utility assets within 2 metres of your excavation zone then first hand dig or use non-destructive methods such as vacuum excavation to dig trial holes until you are able to ‘eyeball’ and view the known position of assets.
  • Commence works with caution and in line with HSE safe digging best practices as described in ‘Avoiding Danger from Underground Services’  HSG 47. Remember always follow the rule of ‘PIPE’ for safe digging.
  • During works ensure that any exposed assets are clearly marked to all workers and are included in daily safety briefings.
  • High risk assets such as electricity cables and pipes should be protected from damage when exposed, seek asset owner assistance for a suitable method of protection.
  • Any length of cable or pipe unsupported for more than 1.2 metres in length should be supported using a timber beam and split ducting for cable/pipe protection and secured using ratchet straps around the ducting (not rope or cable ties), do not touch cables or pipe joints.
  • All exposed high-risk assets should be covered and protected when the work site is unmanned overnight/weekends by using cover plates, there must be no public access.
  • Once the project is complete, ensure no utility asset(s) have been damaged and that any exposed underground asset(s) uncovered by any excavation has been filled back in accordance with asset owner guidelines for cover.
Duty to Protect
  • If further assistance is required, contact the utility asset owners directly using the numbers provided on the asset owner plans.
  • A safe system of work plan along with a record of the LSBUD enquiry and copies of plans received along with any additional notes and contacts with the asset owners must be kept onsite and accessible to all workers until the project is complete.
  • If damage has occurred to any utility asset and this presents an immediate risk to safety contact the emergency services on 999 and then notify the affected asset owner immediately.

Further Measures

At every stage of the project, there are further measures that can be taken to ensure the safety of those involved, please refer to the Safety Practices page for further information and see the Reference Guides and Links page for further industry guidance, links and safety information that everybody excavating should make themselves familiar with.