Near-miss explosion leads to call for Victorian Government to make digging enquiries mandatory
After a 20 year-old worker was seriously injured by a gas explosion at a Berwick primary school recently, there have been calls for the Victorian government to make Dial Before You Dig enquiries mandatory for those engaging in high risk work on underground assets.
The man appears to have hit an underground gas pipe before being engulfed by a flame that also travelled through the primary school’s buildings. Fortunately the incident occurred on the first day of school holidays, so no children or other adults were injured.
Last year two schools and a nursing home in Bacchus Marsh also had to be evacuated after an explosion caused by a gas pipe that ruptured at a nearby worksite.
While the details around the recent explosions are not clear, the incident has prompted calls for the Victorian Government to make the use of Dial Before You Dig enquiries mandatory before any underground construction work is undertaken.
The recommendation for mandatory Dial Before you Dig enquiries was initially made in a report into Victoria’s Electricity and Gas Network Safety, produced by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in August last year.
While the government accepted the recommendation of the report in principle, it is yet to act on that recommendation.
In 2010, the New South Wales government made use of Dial Before You Dig enquiries mandatory.
Ben Howell, CEO of Dial Before You Dig Vic/Tas, suggests that there have been too many dangerous incidences and close calls and that now is the time to act.
“When people think of what can go wrong digging underground, they probably think of a burst water main or sewer pipe, but the facts are significant health and safety risks at play here”, Mr Howell said.
Chief Executive Officer of Civil Contractors Federation (CCF) Victoria, John Kilgour supports the push for Dial Before You Dig (DBYD) enquiries to become mandatory in Victoria.
“We have encouraged civil contractors to utilise the DBYD service for many years now, in fact you wouldn’t undertake an underground construction job without first making the call to ensure first and foremost that our workers are safe and that underground assets are protected.
Victoria certainly has some exciting projects in the pipeline but they need to put safety first and make contacting DBYD mandatory for absolutely every underground dig,” said Mr Kilgour.
There are thousands of kilometres of underground electrical cables and gas pipes throughout Victoria.
“Digging into the unknown not only poses a financial risk, it could very well cost someone, or many people, their lives.
And that’s why we’d like to see the Victorian government adopt the recommendation contained in the report into Victoria’s Electricity and Gas Network Safety, produced by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in August last year.
There have been countless incidents in Victoria that have caused serious injuries and have been enormously costly to the industry. It’s time for the Victorian Government to act before someone digs their own grave,” Mr Howell said.