Safety should always be the first step in any project that breaks ground whether it be on public or private property. This is especially relevant when carrying out a fencing project. A critical aspect that often goes overlooked is the inherent risk fencing projects pose to underground infrastructure, even when replacing an existing fence. According to BYDA’s asset damage data, fencing activities are one of the leading causes of damage to underground assets around Australia.

Understand the risks

Underground utilities, including water, gas, electricity, and telecommunications lines, are essential services. Keeping our community connected is everyone’s responsibility when planning work that includes digging or excavating. Damage to one or more of these utilities when undertaking a fencing project can have severe consequences. These range from lengthy service disruptions for your community, costly repair bills for your business, to serious injury or even fatality for you or your team.

The importance of lodging a BYDA enquiryIt’s Your Responsibility

There is a misconception that obtaining the plans from BYDA is the property owners responsibility. As a contractor, your insurance will generally only cover you if the BYDA plans have been requested by you (the business owner or trades person) for the jobs you are working on. Similarly from a WHS legislative requirement, managing the risk of working near underground utilities is your responsibility. BYDA serves as a single point of contact for anyone planning to carry out digging or excavation work, including fencing projects. When you lodge an enquiry via the service, you gain access to plans and safety information directly from asset owners with assets in your project area. Most importantly, the BYDA service is free to use, and is accessible via the website and iPhone and Android apps.

Follow the 5Ps of safe excavation

Lodging a free enquiry is just the first step when it comes to staying safe whether it be for a fencing project or your next job. Follow the 5Ps of safe excavation to ensure you take the right steps; Plan, Prepare, Pothole, Protect, Proceed.

Case studies

In the below example, a fencer using an auger dug some post holes near a high-voltage cable. Luckily, no injury or damage was sustained. However, it highlights how dangerously close the fencer came to compromising his safety and the safety of others. Ask yourself the question, do you think risk is worth it?

Fencing project

In the next example, a fencing contractor replaced an existing fence without checking for underground assets. Despite claiming an attempt to access BYDA plans, their email wasn’t registered, leaving them without access to crucial information, additionally they ignored the very obvious marker posts that clearly indicate the presence of high pressure gas infrastructure. By ignoring these marker signs and failing to lodge a BYDA plan request, the contractor faces significant penalties for failing to comply with asset owner requirements. Registering an account with BYDA is quick and simple; follow our 2-minute guide to set yours up.

Fencing near-miss

These near-miss incidents are a reminder that even routine tasks like replacing a fence pose a high risk if you don’t consider underground assets, especially if you have assumed that because you are replacing an existing fence that it must be “safe”. Never dig blind, always lodge a plan request with BYDA’s referral service and ensure you comply with the asset owner instructions.