Report highlights ‘worrying trend of complacency’ around pipeline safety

Linewatch Infringement Report image

NEW research has revealed there were 268 incidents of workers putting themselves at risk by digging too close to a high-pressure oil, gas, or chemical pipeline in 2023.

The findings were reported by Linewatch, a pipeline safety awareness group.

Data from the 2023 Infringement Report shows that excavation for service, including full fibre broadband or water services, was the most common danger activity, making up 25% of all reports. This was followed by fencing (22%) and construction of new structures (10%).

Linewatch said the most worrying thing revealed by the Infringement Report is that more than half (52%) of infringements occurred even though the person responsible for digging was aware of the pipeline’s existence. This is a 7% increase on 2023, which also saw a 15% increase on the previous year.

An infringement ranges from someone simply working near an oil, gas, or chemical pipeline without the operator’s permission, through to a worker hitting and damaging it with no prior awareness.

Landowners were the people most likely to cause damage to pipelines in the UK, making up 38% of all incidents recorded. Contractors were second, responsible for 30% of all infringements, while utility companies made up 15% of incidents.

Incidents were much higher in Q1 and Q3, which directly correlates with seasonal work and increased work to use up budgets before the start of the new financial year.

Murray Peat, manager at Linewatch, said, “The latest Linewatch Infringement Report paints a concerning picture. Over half of all pipeline infringements in 2023 happened even though the person digging knew the pipeline was there.

“This highlights a worrying trend of complacency around pipeline safety across almost all industries. While the UK’s infrastructure is critical, every near miss is a potential disaster. We urge everyone working near pipelines to search for pipelines using LSBUD before carrying out any work and to be vigilant for pipeline markers. It’s not worth the risk to yourself, your colleagues, or the environment.”

In 2023, Linewatch delivered 110 free safety awareness briefings to organisations across the UK to over 1,700 people.

Visit the Linewatch website to download the full 2023 Infringement Report.