Utility management company Bosch Munitech’s specialised Underground Services Location (USL) facility encompasses advanced utility detection and mapping services, which are essential for providing accurate information on buried utility infrastructure layouts, says Bosch Munitech underground and origin of underground services divisional head Chris Otto.
“Part of Bosch Holdings, the company’s full USL facility – which is a service necessary for planning new pipe designs, utility diversions and new construction – involves the latest non-intrusive techniques to establish, not only the position and depth of buried utilities, but also the type, size and origin of underground services,” he says.
Otto explains that by gaining access at points, such as chambers and substations, the type and size of services can be identified. Individual routes of cables can then be traced by inducing target signals onto target lines.
“Key benefits of utility detection include accurate utility drawings for design purposes, less damage caused to essential services during excavation, reduction of costs caused by services damage, redesigns and interruptions and a safer working environment for field staff,” he adds.
He further notes that the USL facility is critical in reducing risk and ensuring efficiency and safety in every excavation or construction project. Before digging starts, it is vital that all buried utilities likely to be affected by excavation or construction are located. “Unexpectedly encountering underground utilities during an excavation could cause costly delays of the project, the disruption of essential services and the injury or death of workers.”
Although there is no official accreditation for this skill, Otto explains that the USL is done on site by USL technicians, who acquire their skills through in-service training.
“It takes at least one year of training, sometimes two years, depending on how fast the trainee learns,” he adds, noting that USL is a very specialised service and that only technicians who have been specifically trained in this skill can provide the service.
In addition, Bosch Munitech uses advanced equipment through the USL facility – such as electromagnetic locators, ground penetrating radar and sonde tracing – to locate buried services.
Buried services, or utilities, Otto notes, can include water pipes, stormwater and sewerage drains, as well as electrical, telecommunications and fibre-optic cables.
“The located utility positions are then surveyed by engineering surveyors and draughted onto AutoCAD software for two-dimensional and three-dimensional drawings.
“Some of the applications for underground services location include locating utilities ahead of trenching, map street utility layouts on AutoCAD for design purposes, clearing areas ahead of installation of monitoring wells, as well as tracing specific target lines before working on them.”
He further explains that Bosch Munitech’s services are custom designed to suit the specific USL requirements of consulting engineers, environmental specialists, construction and mining companies, municipalities, small civils and industrial plants.
For example, the smaller contractor who needs to avoid buried services during excavation, only requires scanning of a small area for underground services, to indicate the position of existing services, without having to identify the type of service.
Bosch Munitech’s utility detection and mapping service – which was launched in Gauteng six years ago – is now offered throughout the country, serviced by USL branches in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
The company’s utility management solutions also include water and wastewater, operations and maintenance, solid waste management and geographical information systems.