Across New Zealand, the real estate industry continues at pace with a healthy market generating many sales and marketing activities to support the trade.
Placing a property to market is not normally associated with serious health and safety risks, every month as hundreds of listings are prepared to go to market. Beautiful staging, photography, brochures, and websites are prepared and then all that is left is signage to be placed at the property to advertise the sale and open home details.
It is in this stage of marketing that the danger from hidden invisible infrastructure such as underground electricity cables and pipes can be a danger to those installing signage and also the current residents and members of the public.
Incidents of Damage Caused by Real Estate Signage
Phil Cornforth is the damage prevention expert and operations manager for beforeUdig and has extensive experience in New Zealand & the UK, advising and working with underground utility network owners to manage and reduce the risk from damages to these unseen cables and pipes lurking just under the ground.
Phil says ‘One of the safety issues commonly brought to our attention by asset owners are incidents of damage caused by real estate signage being inadvertently placed into the ground and striking a cable or pipe. With a network of underground infrastructure connecting almost all properties to essential services such as electricity, gas, internet, water and waste this needs to be something that the real estate industry needs to take into account to work safely.
It only takes one unplanned installation to damage one or more of these services, at best annoying the homeowner with loss of internet and at worst ending with property destruction, injury or in the worst case a fatality. Not only is the risk present to those installing the signage but also to any other member of the public that might come into contact with signage that has damaged let’s say an electricity cable meaning it may have become ‘livened’ and just waiting to give an electric shock to anyone that touches it.
Damage Prevention and Management
The good news is that this risk can be managed through a couple of additional steps when planning the installation of such signage.
The crucial first step
First, you should request a copy of cable and pipe maps for any utility owned cables and pipes, most of these are in the street close to the boundary line but can also be found on private property. You can order a set of these plans for free online by using www.beforeUdig.co.nz on a desktop computer or by using our iOS and Android app on your phone or tablet.
After you have made your free enquiry, we will provide you with an immediate confirmation advising of the presence of utility owned cables and pipes which may be in your location. Those that are beforeUdig members will receive instant notification of your intention to work and will provide you with a map of the approximate location of their assets and important safe digging information that you must follow before placing your signs on the ground. For those that are not members of the service, you will receive a ‘not notified’ on your enquiry confirmation and you will need to contact them directly on the phone numbers provided. You must wait for all owners to respond for your own and others safety before you place any signs on the ground so, it is advisable to make your enquiry at least 2 full business days in advance.
Second, we would encourage you to employ the services of a specialist technician called a ‘utility locator’ who using sophisticated equipment can electronically detect the presence of cables and pipes and then mark these out with paint on the ground surface, providing you with increased confidence of the location of cables and pipes. We are pleased to have recently launched our beforeUdig ‘certified locator’ program which gives users of our service the ability to find a locator in their area that has been certified to a high level of skill and competency by industry professionals. You can find a full list of certified locators and contact details here
Once you have performed these two planning tasks and are following safe digging instructions to erect your signage it is unlikely you will strike and damage essential infrastructure. It will keep yourself and the public safe, reduce incidents of damage, save any repair costs, and protect the reputation of your own organisation from complaints and unwanted attention that can eventuate from a strike incident.