Let’s dig up some DIRT!

A look into the 2018 DIRT Report

dirt report

Common Ground Alliance (CGA) is an organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, people who dig near them, and their communities. The program collects critical information and analyzes all 2018 data submitted anonymously and voluntarily by facility operators, utility locating companies, one-call centers, contractors, regulators and others.

According to the CGA, the objective of the DIRT report is to provide a resource to capture damage event information and to identify the root causes of events, with the goal of reducing the number of events through public education, focused damage prevention programs, and improved industry practices.

Now in its twelfth year, there has been a drastic increase in the number of records submitted. This helps the industry better understand the issues faced in the safe digging process and how it can be resolved, thus, making its conclusions and recommendations more precise.

In September 2019 the CGA announced its findings and analysis of utility damage and near-miss events in the 2018 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report. An event is defined in the CGA DIRT User’s Guide as “the occurrence of facility damage, near miss, or downtime.” According to the CGA,” the DIRT allows industry stakeholders in the U.S. and Canada to submit data to a comprehensive database. The database is used to identify the characteristics, themes, and contributing factors leading to damages, downtime, and near misses”.

In the DIRT report, published in September of this year, 440,749 damages and near miss events have been reported in 2018 for the U.S. and Canada.

Reported events, near misses, and damages in Canada and the U.S., over time

  2016 2017 2018
Total Events Entered in DIRT 390,366 411,867 440,749
Near Misses (unique events) 6,093 1,588 4,198
Damages (unique events) 317,869 316,442 341,609

Highlights from the 2018 DIRT Report include:

  • Data from the substantial reporting states is used to estimate the total number of damages for the U.S. The estimate of total damages in the U.S. increased from 439,000 in 2017 to 509,000 in 2018, representing a 16% increase.
  • Damages per 1,000 one call center transmissions increased slightly from 2017 to 2018, along with a similarly small increase in damages per million dollars of construction spending.
  • Despite these increases, the past 15 years have featured mostly year-over-year decreases in estimated damages since the first DIRT Report in 2004. 
  • The top reported root cause category was “excavation issue” (52.2 percent), continuing a trend from recent years where this was the top identified root cause in the DIRT Report. Other identified root causes were as follows:
    • Notification not made – 23.5 percent
    • Locating practices not sufficient – 16.8 percent
    • Miscellaneous – 6.5 percent

The full report can be accessed by clicking on the links below.


The data from the DIRT report informs nearly every aspect of CGA’s operations and industry recommendations. The CGA, for instance, relies heavily on this data for the publication of its Best Practices manual. These Best Practices have been regarded and used as the trusted resource for the underground damage prevention. The CGA Best Practices are designed to improve worker safety, protect vital underground infrastructure and ensure public safety during excavation activities conducted near the existing underground facilities.

To access the most recent edition of CGA Best Practices, please click here.

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