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Underground asset register a game-changer for safety

by Mark Cantrell
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Esh Construction has showcased the latest in UK digital mapping innovations on site after helping to shape the technology’s development with Northumbrian Water Group (NWG).

The National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) was created by the Geospatial Commission to digitally map data on underground power cables and utility services across the UK.

Clive Surman-Wells, NWG’s innovation partnerships manager, initiated the concept during the firm’s Innovation Festival in 2018. Esh Construction was the initial contractor to trial the system, and has worked collaboratively with the water company to develop the technology since then.

Norman Barnett, framework director at Esh Construction, said: “NUAR will be a game changer for health and safety in the construction industry, which all those that have been involved with it so far within Esh are in agreement with.

“Being able to access this information around the clock, and to also capture unchartered service information, is a huge step forward. We are proud to be one of the first contractors nationally to have been involved with the development of NUAR, from conception, through the trials, and now at the go-live stage.”

With upwards of 60,000 accidents recorded owing to accidental damage to the network annually, NUAR is identified as not only reducing the number of accidents, but innovating time-saving and health and safety enhancements to working conditions.

Ash Dunn, HSEQ advisor at Esh Construction, said: “The health and safety benefits are huge. The team on the ground can see more than they’ve ever been able to see before regarding restrictions and hazards, and the clarity of the system beats anything that has been available before it.

“When you can easily understand the hazards that are there, it eliminates one element of danger, which is immensely important within a construction environment and in line with our ‘Everyone Safely Home’ campaign.”

Dunn has been heavily involved in rolling out the system among the Esh Construction team and said the change from cross-referencing and plotting out multiple maps in back-end administration prior to starting on site to the new NUAR system, which provides instant access when you insert the co-ordinates, offers a monumental shift.

Dunn and his colleagues showcased how Esh operates the system, where groundworker and foreman John Ridley said it has been really beneficial.

He said: “NUAR allows us to respond to emergencies and mobilise on site almost immediately without the need to wait for multiple utility drawings to be issued. Seeing as many assets visible on a single view as possible makes it easier to understand what utilities are in the area and where they are. Having 24/7 access to a live system is a major benefit as we regularly work around the clock and carry out excavations overnight.”

It’s claimed that NUAR is a system that has the capability to provide detailed underground maps from over 700 utilities providers, with asset owners like Northumbrian Water being responsible for granting access to its contractors.

Surman-Wells added: “We’re convinced of the many benefits of NUAR: Helping keep our people safe when they are excavating and minimising our impact on services to customers being just two.

“NWG have rolled-out NUAR more extensively than any other company and in the North East region there is increasing uptake across both utilities and local authorities.

“Throughout the development process we have worked collaboratively with Esh, the Geospatial Commission and other asset owners to design a really usable system.”

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