Barton International

How to Protect Underground Cables


Discover how to protect underground cables to ensure the protection and safety of staff and the public remain top of the agenda.

With an estimated 4 million kilometres of buried pipes and cables in the UK, a hole gets dug every seven seconds to install, fix or maintain crucial assets such as electricity or connecting our telecommunications lines. 

But unlike overhead cable management, installation and maintenance can be more challenging when it comes to underground cabling. The key is to invest more time into the protection side of operations at the start. It’ll not only keep staff and the public safe, but it’ll also help prevent any unexpected issues in the future.

With this in mind, we’ve created an 11-step guide showing you how to protect underground cables. Let’s explore.

Discover how to protect underground cables to ensure the protection and safety of staff and the public remain top of the agenda. 

Understanding Underground Cable Management

Underground cables offer multiple benefits, with protection and security high on the list. So, one of the first lessons in underground cable management is developing a system that prioritises safety alongside cable protection.

We can divide underground cable systems into the following forms:

Underground Cable Tunnel

An underground cable tunnel is a subterranean passage built to protect various utility cables, including electrical power, telecommunication, and fibre-optic broadband.

Due to the enclosed, protected space, underground cable tunnels offer the most protection by shielding cables from external threats and environmental factors more effectively than other underground cable management systems.

Underground Cable Concrete Trough

Another form of underground cable management is to dig concrete troughs and install cables within. While the concrete offers protection like capping, most of these troughs can be seen on the surface and offer fewer aesthetic advantages.

Buried Underground Cables

As a basic underground cable management system, conductors and cables get buried directly in a trench with no additional protection except for the surface above and the surrounding earth. Depending on the cable size and voltage, cooling pipes and ducting can be added for more protection.

Gas Insulated Lines (GIL)

Gas Insulated Lines (GIL) is an innovative new form of underground cable management using aluminium conductors to carry currents within a rigid metallic tube filled with insulating gas.

How to Protect Underground Cables in 11 Steps

After deciding on the ideal system for your underground cable management, we recommend following these steps to ensure you protect your underground cables.

1. Cable Route Planning

The first step in providing the best protection for your underground cable system is to select the correct location. From a logical perspective, you want an area that avoids high risks, such as flooding or heavy traffic.

2. Ground Surveys

With your location chosen, before digging or construction takes place, you want to assess the condition of the ground to ascertain if it’s suitable for an underground cable management system. Ground survey devices include electromagnetic locators and ground-penetrating radars (GPR).

3. Burial Depth

Depending on the voltage and purpose of your cable, your construction team should ensure they dig the cable at the correct depth and remove any external factors that can affect the cables in the future, such as tree roots.

Local and national regulations or utility standards will detail the correct depth for your underground cable system. But regardless of your cable, 600mm is a standard minimum for underground cable management. 

4. Correct Cable Installation

Ensure all the cable types, sizes and installation techniques are correct and comply with industry standards and regulations. The correct installation is crucial in preventing damage and minimising maintenance requirements.

We also suggest marking the cables with identification markers at regular intervals to help locate a specific cable in case maintenance or repair is needed.

5. Protective Ducting and Conduits

Underground cable ducting or conduits can provide additional protection for your cables. Applying protective ducting will work as a shield to protect from accidental digging, rodents, and moisture.

6. Invest in Coated Protection

Corrosion is another factor to address when planning your underground cable management system. Investing in higher-quality protective materials like galvanised stainless steel can combat corrosion and provide greater security for your underground cables to maintain their condition, remain functioning and avoid damage.

7. Overcurrent Precautions

When active, underground cables can suffer from excessive current flows and voltages. Ensure you install protective devices, such as fuses and circuit breakers, to prevent damage from an overcurrent of electricity.

8. Lightning Protection

Although underground, lightning strikes can still damage cable systems, so we recommend installing surge arresters and equipotential bonding to protect the cables from any potential lightning strikes.

9. Warning Signage

Alert people in the area through warning tapes and signs on the ground level that high voltage cables are underground. Signs at regular intervals will warn construction or excavation professionals from digging and causing damage.

10. Planned Maintenance

Maintenance can prove difficult with underground cable management systems due to access limitations. However, without maintenance, you can risk missing an issue before it damages the cables and becomes dangerous to others.

Establishing an inspection programme is vital to keep your underground cable systems in the correct condition.

11. Emergency Response Plan

If the underground cables get damaged, a response plan is necessary to guarantee further damage or risk to the public is neutralised.

Invest in Premium Underground Cable Products for Complete Protection

After installing your underground cable system, you want the best products to help prevent damage and meet the necessary expectations for years to come.

Therefore, we recommend investing in top-quality products to meet this expectation and prevent high-risk scenarios.

At Barton International, we provide the following galvanised stainless-steel products ideal for underground cable management purposes and protection:

Mobra Mounting/Frame Products

Cable Bearers

Manhole Accessories

If you have any questions about how our underground cable management products can protect your cables, get in touch.  

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