If you don’t know, don’t dig


Endeavour Energy has joined forces with SafeWork NSW, Dial-Before-You-Dig, Ausgrid and Essential Energy to stop an alarming increase in construction workers striking underground electricity cables over the past two years.

The Don’t Know Don’t Dig campaign was developed following a 65 per cent increase in underground cable strikes in the Sydney region over the past two years.

“Finding out what’s below ground before excavating can save your life,” said Endeavour Energy’s General Manager Safety, Human Resources and Environment, Andrew Pitman.

“Only one in four workers that reported underground cable strikes over the past two years had Dial-Before-You-Dig plans as required under NSW law.

“This campaign is designed to keep workers safe, prevent damage and disruption to electricity supplies and avoid businesses facing large financial penalties for negligent behavior.”

To combat this rising problem, NSW’s electricity distribution networks have joined forces with SafeWork NSW and Dial-Before-You-Dig to develop and deliver Don’t Know Don’t Dig as a public safety initiative.

The campaign is a statewide collaboration between Endeavour Energy, Ausgrid, Essential Energy, SafeWork NSW and Dial-Before-You-Dig NSW.

“Anyone with a job in this state has the right to a safe and healthy workplace, and workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility,” Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said.

“Being aware of the risks of electric shock or serious burns from striking live electricity cables while excavating is critical and the message is simple; if you don’t know, don’t dig.

“We are encouraging all construction industry business owners and workers to view the safety video as part of their efforts to create a safety culture in their workplace so that everyone returns home safe at the end of the working day.”

Spreading the word on Don’t Know Don’t Dig

Mr Pitman said Don’t Know Don’t Dig centered on a short educational video to raise awareness and provide workers and employers with practical tips to stay safe and prevent damage to electricity cables.

“These messages have been spread across NSW with a radio campaign co-branded radio campaign with SafeWork NSW from February – June 2017.

“The partners in the campaign have worked collaboratively to spread the safety message to the construction workers and the broader industry at specific forums and industry events including:  

  • Attendance at over 100 community events to promote the campaign
  • Presence at building and construction industry gatherings to raise awareness on working near underground assets
  • SafeWork inspectors spreading the safety message through various stakeholder groups, industry associations and electricity safety networks
  • Collaboration with the National Electrical and Communications Association, the NSW Industry Safety Steering Committee (ISSC), the Master Builders, HIA and other civil contractor associations, as well as the Industries Electrical Safety Networks in Sydney, the Illawarra and the Hunter                      

“A Don’t Know Don’t Dig webinar is also proposed for later in the year,” Mr Pitman said.

Continuing to keep workers safe

Mr Pitman said the results from the campaign had been promising thus far with Endeavour Energy finding a 30 per cent improvement in construction sites with accurate Dial-Before-You-Dig plans as following the release of the Don’t Know Don’t Dig campaign.  

“It is impossible to be too careful about safety and vigilance when it comes to electricity. Finding out what’s
below ground before excavating can save your life.

“When it comes to working near electricity, knowing the few simple steps outlined by this campaign could save yours or your workers’ lives,” Mr Pitman said.

The four ‘P’s of safety

Don’t Know Don’t Dig centres around a short educational video providing workers with practical knowledge about how to prepare for any dig, and the precautions that will keep them safe as well as prevent damage to electricity cables.

It also raises awareness of the responsibility of everyone on the site to ensure the safety of themselves, their colleagues and the general population.

To remove this risk, the campaign emphasises the four ‘P’s that need to be considered, no matter the size of the excavation:

  1. Planning
  2. Potholing
  3. Protecting
  4. Proceeding


A referral needs to be made to Dial-Before-You-Dig, which then gets passed on to the asset owners who provide direct information about the location of nearby pipes and cables.

Planning also involves extensive risk assessment in the immediate and surrounding area of the dig site. This includes checking site conditions, looking for faults or rock fractures and ensuring the use of proper tools and equipment. It is also important to screen for physical hazards like traffic, environmental factors and other nearby utilities.


Potholing, or soft digging, can be undertaken in two ways: non-destructive digging or manual potholing. These measures are crucial to establishing the exact location of any underground infrastructure.


Protecting the work area is the responsibility of the excavator. The key things to consider when protecting the dig site include ensuring the stability of the trench, and keeping in mind the need for safe and secure access for workers and asset owners. It is also important to appropriately fence the area and provide adequate safety signage.


Once the planning, potholing and protecting has been carefully carried out, only then is it safe to proceed with the dig.

If damage is caused to an electricity cable, the first step is to call the local electricity provider to report the damage and they will turn off electricity to the area. If the damage is uncontrollable, call 000 immediately and keep everyone at least eight meters away from the damaged cable.

If someone has suffered from an electric shock, it is important not to touch them. If a machine comes in contact with a live cable, the operator should remain on or inside the machine until the electricity has been disconnected.   


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