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A View from The Bothy

A View from the Bothy: Can You Dig It?

One of the fundamentals of what we do as gardeners is committing living things to the soil.

And when you watch this happening on TV gardening shows, the soil is usually light and fluffy.

But in reality, it can be a very different story…

Aside from all the usual issues of heavy clay, poor drainage, lumps of concrete and bicycle frames, there are other things that need to be taken into consideration.

For example: underground services.  These include water pipes, foul sewers, septic tanks, gas pipes and power cables.

In theory, everything should be buried to a depth of at least a metre and protected with some sort of warning tape or barrier.

If only that was true.

In 2016/17 there were 1,244 incidents of underground cable strikes reported in the UK, and between 2012 and 2017 the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) reported 318 injuries and fatalities caused by cable strikes.

While the majority of those would have occurred within the utilities, construction and comms industries, some of these incidents will inevitably have involved landscaping and fencing works.

In order to prevent such accidents from occurring, it’s a good idea to take some pre‑emptive measures before you start digging.

If you’re working on - or adjacent to - a construction site, ask to see services drawings for where you’re working.  If you don’t understand the drawings, ask for clarification.

Use a Cable Awareness Tool (known as a CAT Scanner); you can hire these by the day for £30 or £50 for a week.

Look for clues – are there lamps, inspection hatches, junction boxes or comms cabinets nearby?

Consider using fibreglass handled digging tools.

Lastly – check out the HSE website ( for advice when it comes to digging near underground services.

You could just avoid a nasty shock.