Groundworks in a High-Risk Environment

When people think of groundworks, they think of foundations, drainage and landscaping. What people often don’t consider fully is the inherent danger associated with existing services buried beneath. For example, it is reported that on average, there are 12 deaths and over 600 serious injuries every year resulting from contact of some form with the electricity network. Then there are the hazards associated with contact with gas and water mains to consider as well.

“Where are the risks?”, you might ask. When it comes to risk assessing excavations, the possibilities that need to be accounted for may seem endless.  Aspects related purely to excavation works, such as a trench collapse, falling into excavations and flooding are bad enough on their own, however, the presence of live services in the area as well elevates the level of risk to a much greater degree.

High risk environments provide a challenge to developments with very serious consequences. For instance, when Shanco was tasked with the groundworks for the Northern Power Grid data room development in Leeds, the project involved digging trenches for data cables and drainage for the new building.

The inherent issues with working in such a high-risk environment, congested with other services, meant that very specific and strict buried services procedures had to be followed. The consequences of striking a high voltage cable on the site would have been severe!

As a means of avoiding a catastrophic digging disaster, the service plans were consulted, the area scanned and all trench excavations were done carefully by hand using insulated tools. The whole project took around 6 weeks to complete and, due to the appropriate caution being applied to the job, no service strike incidents occurred.

Felix Clarke