Tradies unearth the secrets to safe digging with free excavation education program

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
6 Min Read

Tradies and apprentices are returning to the classroom to learn about digging risks as part of a new excavation education program. 

The groundbreaking course ‘breaks ground’ on how to safely dig, excavate, or disturb earth – equipping those in the building industry with all the tools they need to stay safe on excavation jobs. 

Presented by Before You Dig Australia, the BYDA damage prevention team delivers more than 750 education sessions annually to more than 14,000 construction workers, tradies and apprentices. 

The free program, split into two 45-minute sessions, educates workers on how to mitigate and avoid potential damage and harm to ensure a safe excavation site. It is followed by a lesson on utility plan reading to teach tradies how to effectively interpret asset owners’ plans, legends, and symbols. 

BYDA spokesperson Tania Nitschke told Build-it the free program was designed to dig up a safer approach to digging on Aussie worksites. 

“BYDA’s industry education program aims to equip civil construction and trade operators involved in digging, excavating, or any other ground-disturbing activity with the necessary knowledge to prevent costly damage to underground infrastructure, avoid injuries, and minimise service disruptions,” she said. 

“We explain the importance of safe digging, the role of BYDA, safe excavation recommended best practice, being aware and the importance of complying with asset-owner instructions, and the consequences of accidental damage.” 

“(Meanwhile) Being aware and understanding the complexities of utility plans can contribute to a smooth and safe excavation at your site.” 

What are the risks of digging blind?

Commonly used by the civil contracting industry, councils, plumbers, landscapers, electricians, and telecommunication workers, Tania says Before You Dig Australia’s online education resources and in-person classes inform tradies and DIY lovers about the services available for protecting their assets as well as themselves. 

“People can be hurt; imagine if you hit a high-pressure gas line, electrical cable, or even water,” she explained.

“We had a recent case where the water cannoned out and injured somewhere.”

“But these incidents can be easily avoided by doing due diligence, getting your plans, and doing the correct preparations.”

Online tools help bury safety risks 

BYDA’s YouTube channel has a number of helpful educational videos

While the program is currently only available to established trade businesses and education institutions, Tania says sole traders and DIY lovers can still freely use BYDA’s range of online education tools to ensure they undertake their excavation works safely. 

“For sole traders, DIYers, and homeowners, BYDA provides free online information resources to guide safe excavation and digging practices,” she told Build-it.

“Access guides, videos and tools can be found on our website…Given the critical nature of utilities, BYDA always recommends using a skilled utility locator to help verify the location of assets.” 

The platform is accessible to anyone that is about to dig a hole to help prevent service outages for both property owners and the surrounding areas. 

“If you are planning on any excavation work, rather than try to guess or figure out what utilities are going through your property, you can come to the website, enter your details, and you get all the plans in one go,” she said.

“We want to make people aware of the service and make them aware of safe excavation practices, the whole idea is to reduce the risk of damage to assets and keep people safe.” 

Homeowners tips before you dig: 

  • Determine who will lodge the BYDA enquiry before work commences.
  • Look for asset clues on site, such as the water, gas or electricity meters. 
  • Assets may be under footpaths, driveways, nature strips, or near fencelines. 
  • Never assume the depth of pipes and cables. 
  • Asset owner details are on the email received after lodging the enquiry.
  • Plans you receive after lodging a BYDA enquiry are indicative only. 
  • The plans may not contain specific details within your property area. 
  • Consider using the service of a skilled locator to assist you. 
  • Record information and any notes if you damage any services. 
  • Be aware that asset owners may seek compensation for any damages. 

Who can book the free education seminars?

The sessions are available year-round and are open to any commercial or large-scale trade business, RTOs, or TAFEs involved in any aspect of ground-disturbing work or training, such as digging, excavating, drilling, boring, and trenching. 

The gained skills could then be used while conducting excavations for any purpose, such as pool or fence installations, plumbing or landscaping, enabling upskilled crews to tackle tasks with greater confidence and efficiency.

Construction businesses can book a BYDA education program session for free by visiting the BYDA website. Minimum participation numbers apply. 

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.