August 2019 Vol. 74 No. 8


Gold Shovel Reorganizes to Better Serve Industry

High Growth Rate Continues; Damage Prevention Goals Remain Priority

Jeff Griffin  |  Senior Editor

The Gold Shovel Standard program was established in 2016 to assist in efforts to protect the country’s buried utility infrastructure from accidental damage that can cut off vital services, is costly and poses serious safety risks to construction workers and the general public. 

Founders of the non-profit organization wanted Gold Shovel to complement work of the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), One Call and other organizations, by formalizing a program in which utility providers and the construction industry worked together to reduce accidental utility hits.

Gold Shovel members commit to using construction methods that approach damage prevention in a way known to improve performance, said Cheryl Campbell, who was appointed Gold Shovel’s new executive director earlier this year.

“This includes internal crews, as well as any outside contractors or subcontractors who perform excavation services,” she explained. “This approach includes having a written damage prevention safety management system, using CGA best practices, performing a root cause analysis when damage occurs, and regular training of employees to ensure understanding of damage prevention methods and process.

“Gold Shovel uses the term ‘certification’ to show a member is practicing these steps.”

Gold Shovel Standard has completed an internal reorganization to move the program forward at a faster pace.

“There are many parties involved in excavation [the industry’s term for any soil-displacing activity], and we want to partner with them to reduce utility damages,” said Campbell. “Gold Shovel’s initial focus was working with gas utilities because damages to this infrastructure can have a very negative impact on public safety, and there have been a number of examples of this during the last year.

“But there are other underground asset owners, locate-and-mark companies, excavators, local municipalities, 811 call-before-you-dig and other organizations. It will take all of us working together to solve the challenges of reducing damages to underground infrastructure.”


The Gold Shovel Standard focuses on metrics – standardizing damage prevention measurements – and employing them to manage utility damage prevention. The key metric used by Gold Shovel is Damage Prevention Incident Ratio (DPIE).

“This is provided as density DPIR (normalized by ticket count) and as work hours DPIR (normalized by hours worked),” she added. “Gold Shovel calls these two DPIR measures the excavation metrics.”

Gold Shovel has made several significant changes in 2019.

“The first,” Campbell said, “is that the excavation metrics are available to members. This information was collaboratively developed by the excavation metrics committee, which included excavators and asset owners. Everyone said it was impossible or too hard to come up with a fair way to measure excavation damages. I don’t believe it’s too hard – it takes focus and collaborative work – but we believe we have something that is fair, something we can all work with and will show where companies need to improve their processes overall to reduce damages. This is a big step forward.

“We all know that having data and transparency around data helps drive improvement,” Campbell continued. “Our members can now see how many damages are occurring, and how those damages are happening. They can make decisions based on that information to improve the process. Data always improve our decision making. Some of our members are seeing good improvement in damages overall – which means a reduction in damages.”

Another significant change is that every organization involved with the program now is a member of the Gold Shovel Association (GSA).

“In the past,” explained Campbell, “only asset owners (utilities) were members, and other parties were called ‘participants.’ We’ve changed that and are now including everyone as a member, regardless of where you are in the process. We think this is a big plus for everyone – all can say they belong to the Gold Shovel Association, a non-profit focused on reducing damages.”


The other major change is the association’s overall reorganization. Most non-profits hire a second-party company or individual to get the organization started and in operation.

Gold Shovel was no different. “But this year,” Campbell said, “we reorganized so we operate as a traditional non-profit.

“For instance, all members – asset owners, excavators, essentially everyone – will pay membership fees directly to the Gold Shovel Association, rather than to a contractor. And I am the executive director of Gold Shovel Association, rather than someone from a company under contract holding that position. This basically means that I will be working directly with the
Gold Shovel board of directors on strategic direction, as well as making decisions that impact our members and programs.
In short, it’s a different organization and structure than what we’ve had in the past.”

Campbell said Gold Shovel grew 15 percent in the past year. Currently there are more than 1,400 members, including asset owners, excavators, locate and mark companies, and municipalities.

“We are targeting growth of 35 percent by the end of the year,” she said, “and we think we can reach that goal.”

She also believes the association has achieved higher recognition, which helps growth.

“I believe,” she continued, “that metrics will drive credibility and that showing results will improve credibility overall. There is no doubt when we measure things and have transparency around it, we see improvement, as well as increased recognition and credibility.

“Look at measures such as OSHA rates – while we all know they are not perfect, measuring them consistently over time has driven down worker injuries. More people are going home safe every day. These metrics are no different – fewer damages means more safety for workers and the public around underground infrastructure.”

Goals remain same

In summary, Campbell said Gold Shovel’s goals of reducing damages to underground infrastructure have not changed, but the program has evolved significantly from where it started three-plus years ago. Excavation metrics are in place and members are using that information to improve performance.

“We have other committees working, as well,” she said, “including a pre-excavation committee and a program integrity committee. We have other work to pick up later this year, including improving the certification process and program overall – using what we’ve learned to date on what makes an effective safety management system.”

GSA’s goal, Campbell said, continues to be to work collaboratively to resolve the challenges of protecting underground infrastructure.

“We don’t want more rules and regulations to achieve that goal,” she emphasized. “We believe the industry can make positive change.” Continuous improvement by all responsible parties (operators, excavators, locators) is critical to achieve a dramatic reduction in damages, and measurements underpin continuous improvement.

“Standardizing the measurement process is an overdue first step to drive performance improvement and increase public and workforce safety.”

Gold Shovel Leadership

The Gold Shovel is led by a group with experience in a broad range of utility operation and construction.

Executive Director Cheryl Campbell previously was senior vice president of Xcel Energy, has served on the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and on the board of directors of several industry-related non-profit organizations.

Gold Shovel board of director members are:

  • Luke Litteken, senior vice president of Gas at Xcel Energy, chairman
  • Michael Catt, vice president of operations, Kinder Morgan
  • Peter Kenny, vice president of gas transmission and distribution construction, Pacific Gas & Electric
  • Allen Gray, director, utility infrastructure division of Associated General Contractors of America
  • Josh Hinrichs, president, ELM Companies
  • Mike Kemper, executive vice president, Quanta Services
  • Kevin Miller, president, Miller Pipeline
  • Joe Woomer, vice president, Dominion Energy



Cheryl Campbell, Gold Shovel executive director

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