The Utility Providers Service Committee (UPSC) in Western Australia is an independent entity whose members are primarily asset owners and service providers of assets, such as roads, water, sewer, drainage, communications and energy.
The committee focuses on establishing standards for operational issues including the co-ordination of utility service works, site works safety, environment, allocation of alignments, and corridors for utility services within road reserves, and indicating requirements for utility services located within rail reserves.
A significant issue for the UPSC in recent times has been the potential and actual damages to assets by operators of horizontal directional drilling (HDD) equipment. A sub committee was formed and representatives from each of the member bodies were included. The Australasian Society for Trenchless Technology (ASTT) was invited to attend these meetings to represent HDD and trenchless industry views.
UPSC members encourage and support the use of trenchless technologies such as HDD for the installation of assets and they recognise the benefits of such methods. Strong concern, however, has arisen in the increasing number of “÷hits’ causing damage and “÷near misses’ that could have caused significant damage.
The subcommittee sought to investigate proactive opportunities to reduce the frequency of “÷hits’ on underground assets. These investigations noted that in many cases, hits or near misses were associated with HDD crew members having limited or no training for the required HDD activity. Further, in most cases, there appeared to be no recognised qualification required to be a member of an HDD crew.
The ASTT clarified that there are recognised national qualifications for HDD operators in both the drilling and civil construction sectors of the Resources and Infrastructure Industries (RII) training packages. These qualifications are available for Certificate II, Certificate III (tradesman level), and Certificate IV (Supervisor) and above. The ASTT promotes the standard that all Trenchless Technology (including HDD) crews should have a “÷tradesman’ level (Certificate III) qualified operator within each crew as a minimum level.
The UPSC subcommittee has recommended to the UPSC that this standard (or similar) should be applied to all works incorporating HDD or trenchless activities. In addition, the competency in the identifying and locating of underground assets was agreed to be a mandatory skill to be completed prior to all works.
It is likely that the member utilities involved will commence applying these standards to new and existing contracts in the near future. In addition, the UPSC has commenced discussion with Worksafe WA with a view to having such standards incorporated in the soon to be updated Excavation Codes within their regulations.
With it being anticipated that such standards will be sought throughout other Australian states, the support of such standards will improve and raise the profile of HDD as a specialist Trenchless Technology.