Common Ground Alliance Meeting Draws Record Attendance

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) posted record numbers at its 2011 Annual Meeting and CGA Excavation Safety Conference & Expo held March 8-10 in Orlando, FL.

“It was awesome to see so many stakeholders come together to support the CGA message of safety,” said Bob Kipp, CGA president.

CGA is a nonprofit, member-driven organization dedicated to establishing and promoting practices to prevent damage to the underground utility infrastructure.

The convention theme was ‘Damage Prevention Is Good Business,’ said Kipp, one that will be the organization’s focus throughout the year. The keynote address was presented by Timothy Butters, assistant administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

The 2011 conference focused on new technologies and the facility owners, contractors, representatives from regulatory agencies and others with a stake in preventing damage to underground facilities attended more than 100 exhibits, industry specific educational sessions, and a free Excavation Safety Day program for those unable to participate in the full conference. Version 8.0, the latest edition of CGA’s Best Practices Field Manual, was introduced at the conference.

Educational sessions conducted by industry experts covered a wide spectrum of damage prevention topics. In addition, half-day and full-day workshops were presented on damage investigation, locating and marking underground facilities.

The safety summit included demonstrations on pipe and cable locating, locating with ground penetrating radar, vacuum excavation, trench shielding and shoring, and trench rescue.

Best practices
The CGA Best Practices Field Manual is recognized as the standard industry guide for preventing damage to underground facilities. Best Practices are under continuing evaluation and evolve and change to meet changing needs. Among updates in Version 8.0, released at the Orlando event are new information about vacuum excavation, technology used to expose buried pipe and cable; and a modification including use of digital imagery as a method for identifying facility locations. Version 8.0 of the Best Practices Field Guide can be downloaded from the CGA web site ( or by calling CGA’s fulfillment contractor at (330) 533-1727.

While Best Practices may be the best-known achievement of CGA, other contributions to the industry include:
• Support of establishment and implementation of the national “811” national one-call number which rings the one-call agency nearest the caller;
• Development of D.I.R.T., a state-of-the-art information-reporting tool for creating a national database containing details about accidental underground utility strikes;
• Creation of regional CGA organizations across the United States and Canada;
• Integration into CGA of One Call Systems International (OCSI), an organization that has long been active in programs to protect underground facilities; and
• Ongoing educational efforts to make the utility and construction industries and general public aware of the importance of preventing damage to underground utilities and programs to help achieve that goal.

Based in Alexandria, VA, a small paid staff coordinates programs that depend on unpaid industry volunteers for implementing CGA’s shared-responsibility approach to carrying out recommendations of the Common Ground Study published in 1999.

“CGA members,” said Kipp, “are the driving force in the committees that has produced these key industry tools.”

The 2012 Excavation Safety Conference & Expo conference will be March 6-8 in Las Vegas.

“We encourage all those who are interested in underground damage prevention to attend this conference,” concluded Kipp.

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