Safety is vital when working near gas pipelines, which in the worst case can result in death or injury. Here, Australia’s largest pipeline operator APA outlines some common mistakes people make when working near its 15,000km of transmission pipelines.

APA owns and operates networks that deliver half of the natural gas used in Australia. Work conducted by other utilities is one of the most common forms of unauthorised works near APA pipelines. Apart from the risk of personal injury or death, damage to gas pipelines may result in legal action. If you are planning any work around APA’s gas transmission pipelines, ask yourself and your team if the following common mistakes sound familiar.

I’ve worked around gas pipelines before – I know what I can and can’t do

Even experienced people may not know they are working around high pressure gas transmission pipelines. Each case can have very different levels of risk. There are also many other pipeline operators with their own requirements. Don’t assume that previous experience will apply.

My work won’t be a problem – I’ll just go ahead without checking for underground services

Unauthorised excavation is one of the leading causes of risk to APA’s pipelines and coatings. Work should also not block line-of-sight between the pipeline marker signs, or restrict access for patrols and maintenance.

APA transmission pipeline easements often run through private property. The terms of the easements typically provide for APA access along the easement and prevent placement of structures or obstructions. APA will not unreasonably stop work, but will work with you and the landowner to keep adequate access.

It’s only a quick job. I won’t get caught, and even if I do, nothing will happen

APA regularly patrols its pipelines. It is highly likely that your works will be detected. The work will be stopped. You will need to reinstate the site and wait until you have the right authority. You may then be responsible for the significant cost of any works that are required to check and repair pipeline integrity. Penalties may also apply under state pipeline legislation.

Hitting the pipeline won’t cause death or injury

Australia has not experienced any death or injury from damage to a gas transmission pipeline, but there have been cases of rupture and ignition resulting from third party interference. Overseas, third party interference has caused many fatalities and serious injuries.

I only scratched the pipeline, it will be fine

Damaging the coating or the pipeline itself in any way diminishes its integrity. It can reduce the wall thickness or create a pathway for corrosion to form, leading to future failure. So any suspected pipeline strike requires APA to check and maintain pipeline integrity.

The pipeline is deep enough that my works will be clear

Depth of cover varies throughout a pipeline’s life due to earthworks, erosion and subsidence. Excavation can easily extend to the depth of transmission pipelines. APA needs to confirm pipeline depth before authorising works.

The landowner has done the Before You Dig, so I’m OK to go

Using the Before You Dig service at www.byda.com.au is the essential first step, but your duty of care doesn’t end there. Get a copy of the Before You Dig response, even if someone else has made the enquiry. Read the response carefully to ensure that the enquiry is current, and that you have completed all required actions. If a transmission pipeline is affected this means calling APA to discuss your proposed works.

The pipeline marker signs show the exact location of the pipeline

Marker signs are usually offset and not located directly above the pipeline.

I’ll just get a locator service to find the pipeline and then I can proceed safely

Third party location of APA assets is not allowed. The company is happy to schedule an on-site location for your project or works. Work within set criteria requires APA authorisation. In some cases, APA supervision during works is also required. Supervision is scheduled according to availability, so please plan your works to allow for this.

I can use vacuum excavation without needing to contact the pipeline operator

Vacuum and hydro excavation can damage pipeline coating. Any of these activities around APA assets require supervision by one of the company’s permit issuing officers, and must observe strict pressure limits.

Transmission pipelines often run through private properties

APA has seen the risks, expense and time caused by these misconceptions.

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by APA. For further information, contact APA on 1800 103 452 or at apaprotection@apa.com.au – APA will come to your workplace and present to your company on the risks and requirements when working around gas transmission pipelines.

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