Publicly Available Specification to improve the visibility and resilience of buried services
For generations, we have failed to adequately record and map the location of our underground assets, causing inconvenience and safety risks to workers, as well as the general public. Although good practice is being developed and followed, there is still much more we can do to improve the visibility and resilience of our buried services.
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is working with British Standards Institution (BSI) and other stakeholders to develop an industry standard Publicly Available Specification (PAS) for recording and sharing the location, state and nature of buried assets.
 Why do we need this new standard?
- Improve safety for the public and operatives carrying out works.
- Reduce disruption caused by works on underground assets.
- Reduce the number of asset strikes and increase the continuity of supply and integrity of underground assets.
- Reduce the environmental impact and costs to asset owners, highway users, businesses and the local community.
This new PAS will not replace or comment on existing legislation, but will provide a code of practice to implement the requirements. It will build on the existing legislation of the New Roads and Street Works Act (NRSWA) and take the next step forward from PAS 128: Specification for underground utility detection, verification and location (2014). PAS 128 set out the accuracy to which the data should be captured, the quality expected of the data and a means by which to assess and indicate the confidence that can be placed in the data.
 What do ICE hope to achieve?
Specifying a common industry standard would incentivise regulators and asset owners to coordinate and collaborate on:
- The collection and sharing of location information data.
- Agreement of consistent data protocols to be used.
- How existing asset records should be updated, recorded and collated.
It would also:
- Specify the requirements to improve the storing of buried services data.
- Over time, standardise the format in which records are kept to enable effective sharing.
- Set a structure for historic records.
- Improve the quality of data captured when working on underground assets.
 How will ICE be doing this?
ICE will be working with BSI to create a 'balanced' steering group, consisting of representatives of all sectors who have an interest in the PAS from the asset owners, geo-teams, facilities, utilities, regulators, local authorities and more.
The intention of this PAS is to state the need for change, provide a potential scope to be included, an indication of the business case for the justification of this PAS and what could be implemented.
This article originally appeared as Improving visibility and resilience of our buried services: creating an industry standard, published by the Institution of Civil Engineers on 23 October 2015. It was written by Marc Hobell.
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