The evolution of underground construction techniques has paved the way for innovative methods, one of which is pipe jacking. This non-disruptive approach involves installing pipes directly in a continuous length behind a machine while controlled excavation occurs at the face. The result? A flexible, structurally resilient, and watertight pipeline. The environmental benefits of pipe jacking, especially when compared to traditional open-cut methods, are significant and are reshaping the landscape of infrastructure projects.

Background: The Rise of Microtunneling

The origins of pipe jacking can be traced back to the development of miniature tunnel boring machines (TBMs). These remote-controlled, computer-assisted machines, now known as microtunnel boring machines (MTBMs), have revolutionized underground construction. They can navigate through various terrains, from soil and mixed faces to weak rock and hard rock, making them versatile tools in modern engineering.

Operation Explained

In a typical pipe jacking operation, the product pipe or casing is propelled by jacks from the drive shaft to the reception shaft. Workers assist in excavating and removing spoil, ensuring the process’s smooth progress. A jacking shield protects workers inside, ensuring their safety while maintaining the tunnel’s integrity.

Benefits of Pipe Jacking

Pipe jacking offers an array of benefits:

  • Minimal Surface Disruption: Unlike open-cut methods, pipe jacking minimizes ground disruption, reducing reinstatement costs significantly.
  • Reduced Environmental Disturbance: The method’s reduced excavation footprint lowers its environmental impact, making it a greener choice.
  • Inherent Strength: The resulting pipeline is not only flexible but also structurally robust, ensuring long-term stability.
  • Social and Economic Advantages: Pipe jacking lessens social costs in urban areas, minimizing disruptions to communities and businesses.

Challenges and Risks

However, no construction method is without challenges. Pipe jacking projects must contend with potential hazards, including confined spaces, work at height, water environments, and excavations. Proper planning, training, and adherence to safety protocols are crucial to mitigating these risks.


This method stands as a testament to human ingenuity, transforming how we construct vital underground infrastructure. Its minimal surface disruption reduced environmental impact, and inherent strength make it a valuable choice for modern projects. As we navigate the complexities of urban development, this innovative technique ensures a sustainable, efficient, and safe future for underground construction endeavours.

Our Services

Cairnmead Industrial Consultants provides a unique consulting experience in the field of Health and Safety. Our methodology prioritizes simplicity, acknowledging that safety is not just about acquiring knowledge, but also about full comprehension. Our core mission is centered on helping our clients grasp these concepts. We condense our vast expertise and skills into easily accessible, actionable information.

Contact us to find out more:

Christof Lourens

CEO Cairnmead Industrial Consultants (Pty) Ltd

Tel: 012 346 5752 | Email:

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