Research from LSBUD Reveals UK Farmers Are Still at Risk from Unsafe Digging Practices


Two Thirds of Farmers Know Someone Who Has Hit an Underground Pipe or Cable.

Two thirds (67 percent) of UK agricultural workers know someone that has struck an underground pipe or cable whilst digging, according to new research. 11 percent of these incidents ended in injury, with 3 percent resulting in fatality.

The vast bulk (85 percent) of the time there was significant damage to the underground asset, whilst the impact on the local community was also substantial. Over a quarter (26 percent) of incidents led to business disruption, flooding (17 percent), traffic disruption (8 percent), fall out with local residents (4 percent) and total evacuation (1 percent). Further to this, of all instances, 8 percent caused environmental damage, and 3 percent ended in significant fines.

The study, which was commissioned amongst more than 100 farmers in the UK by leading online safe digging resource LSBUD, reveals the scale of digging activity taking place on farms across the country. 57 percent of UK farmers are doing considerable excavation on their land at least once a month. 11 percent stated that they are doing so daily, with a further 11 percent suggesting they are operating on a weekly basis.

Sarah Lee, Director of Policy, Countryside Alliance said: “The results from this survey show we could reduce the amount of digging accidents by undertaking a simple check of what underground assets are below. I know there are competing pressures and deadlines but taking five minutes to ensure we know what is below can ensure the safety of those working and minimise disruption for local communities.”

To go with the volume, the depth of the excavation is also significant. Nearly two thirds (62 percent) of UK agriculture workers are digging down three feet or more. Indeed, one quarter of all projects are reaching depths of more than six foot.

Richard Broome, MD at LSBUD, comments: “Having two thirds of farmers either hitting a pipe or cable themselves, or knowing someone that has, is quite scary. People are unnecessarily putting themselves at risk, when a two-minute search could help save their life.


“Something that people forget is that in the UK we have pipelines carrying substances ranging from chemicals to oil – all likely to be at a very high pressure. These pipelines are often buried just two to three feet below the surface, and the majority of the farmers we spoke to are operating in this depth range, and deeper. Care and consideration must be factored in when putting a digger bucket, fence post or even spade into the ground. That said, even deep agricultural groundworks and the impact of heavy machinery at crossing points must be considered.”

With modern farming machinery, the ability to break ground faster and deeper than ever increases the risk of putting any worker in danger each time a farming operation is carried out. Despite the risks, 25 percent of UK farmers admit that they do not check for the whereabouts of underground pipes and cables before digging. Furthermore, of those that do, 40 percent simply ask a colleague.

While 36 percent of those who check do use an online portal, this amounts to just 8 percent of farmers overall.

When asked why they don’t use an online system, 79 percent state that they don’t need to as they know the location of each underground asset on their land. 19 percent said it takes too long, and 11 percent thought it would be too expensive. Four percent stated that they simply weren’t worried about hitting an underground pipe or cable.

Richard Broome continues: “As a team dedicated to helping anyone across the country dig safely, and for free, we find this sentiment worrying to say the least. Almost four fifths of those surveyed felt there was no need to search before digging because they know their land. Whilst this might be true, can you be too careful? Does everyone undertaking such works on your land have the same knowledge? Could the assets have changed depth since installation? Does your approach change when farming new land parcels or contracting for other farmers? What can our team do to help change this and help the broad range of farmers across the UK understand this risk before it is too late?”

With 11 percent of the farmers we spoke admitting to having no idea what underground assets where beneath their land, a free, two-minute search should be a vital part of any digging project.

Broome concludes: “To that four percent of agricultural workers who ‘aren’t worried’ about hitting pipes and cables, I urge you to reconsider. This research, from the industry, confirms that such strikes cause injury and sometimes even death. Let’s stay safe and always search before you dig.

To find out more about LSBUD, visit To watch the LSBUD Explosion Awareness video in collaboration with the fencing contractor who went viral in June for knocking a fence post through a high-pressure gas pipeline, click here.

Read more of the latest news from us

Plant Planet magazine is available online today

Get updates on the go, follow us on Twitter