By Warren Record, Sr.
Underground obstructions are any buried object or obstacle that interferes with our completing planned work. Some common underground obstructions are:
In a “Greenfield” project, coming into contact with most of these objects, provided the unit hasn’t been commissioned, generates impacts that are primarily limited to cost and schedule. It’s usually the time and money required to fix the damage and then move on … provided the line, cable, electrical feeder, etc., has not been commissioned.
“Live lines” are an entirely different kettle of fish. “The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.”
Impacts from hitting in-service or “live” underground obstructions on Green or Brownfield work may include:
While I’ve heard it said, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” I’ve never seen an underground obstruction event that made anyone stronger. In over 30 years of field work, I’ve never seen one underground obstruction event that had a positive consequence.
“We must be good at hitting underground obstructions because we find a way to do just that on nearly every major project.”
Some of the “we are so good at it” are just excuses. Here are some of the “overused excuses”:
In order to reverse the trend of hitting underground obstructions, eliminating and/or minimizing the possibility of this event must be a specific project goal in the execution plan. Then having identified this as a project goal, the execution team must develop detailed planning that specifically identifies what measures will be used to achieve this goal.
Some of the preventative measures that should be included in the field execution plan are:
Using the above suggestions will help minimize problems caused by undetected underground obstructions.