Planet Underground Episode 14: Assume the Position
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Episode 14: Assume the Position

In Episode 14: Assume the Position, we cover The Roundtable event at Planet Underground, an annual damage prevention networking and industry debate forum, and how topics discussed here are becoming a vehicle for industry action.

The Roundtable is the most fascinating event in damage prevention and excavation safety because nobody knows what anyone is going to say, but they will speak frankly. There is no scripted conversation at The Roundtable and it includes a diverse audience of industry experts not afraid to express their opinion on what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to change for the better. The Roundtable brings together voices from all stakeholders in underground utility construction, utility locating and utility design: contractors, engineers, utilities, locators, hardware and software manufacturers, and local/state regulatory agencies.

“How many people died last year in damage prevention related events last year in the US? We don’t know what the number is. We are talking about fundamental statistics about the damage prevention industry, and we don’t even know.”
-Fred Lesage, AXA XL

(Speaking to utility owners) “Why not create a technical certification program for locators funded by your asset, your source of revenue?”
-Stephanie Menning, MUCA

“We’ll reach out to the utilities. If you want to prevent damages to utilities, you don’t keep going, you stop and figure it out.”
-Greg Preisch, Electric Conduit Construction

The Sun Prairie explosion in Wisconsin last summer that killed a firefighter, injured dozens and destroyed property was fully preventable with better laws, communication and/or training. The desire is to move beyond discussing damages and damage prevention issues and push forward to real change.

After carefully listening to and reviewing the two days of Roundtable discussions, Planet Underground put together a list of 6 positions for industry change reflected in the conversations among all who attended. In Episode 14: Assume the Position, we present excerpts of many conversations from The Roundtable 2018 reflecting these positions. In May of 2019, Planet Underground brought together some of these voices from The Roundtable at their headquarters in Manteno, IL to discuss these positions and decide which would be most likely to find traction in legislative action. These two were agreed upon.

1. Mandatory reporting of all damages – We need the most accurate data to create the most effective damage prevention solutions. The real number of damages is likely far above what is reported in the DIRT report.
2. All locators and excavators should be certified to a set of national standards agreed upon by all parties.

Do we wait for the next big damage to occur before the utility industry takes action, or do we proactively create change to protect public safety?

Read more also about The Roundtable in the Volume 33 Issue 1 of American Locator. Subscribe online.

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