It’s National Safe Digging Month- which means utility companies want you to figure out what’s below the ground before you start your next project.
According to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, some 6,000 hits are reported on underground facilities across the state each year and each pose a danger to contractors, utility workers and nearby residents. Not to mention they could spur service interruptions, environmental damage and costly repairs to damaged lines.
Residents and contractors are encouraged to call 811 before any excavation work to ensure that lines are property located and marked.
PUC Commissioner John F. Coleman Jr. said since its first hearing in November of last year, the Damage Prevention Committee has filed approximately 415 disciplinary actions resulting in more than $302,000 in total fines against facility owners, excavators and project owners. The creation of the DPC was authorized by Act 50 of 2017, which enhances Pennsylvania’s Underground Utility Line Protection Act – also known as the “One Call Law.”
The DPC is part of the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, which also includes the Pipeline Safety Division. Modeled after successful programs in other states, the focus of the committee is a reduction in the number of “hits” on underground utilities. The DPC meets regularly to review alleged violations of the Act and makes determinations as to the appropriate response including, but not limited to, the issuance of warning letters or administrative penalties. The committee holds public meetings in Hearing Room 1 of the Commonwealth Keystone Building, Harrisburg, and each of the meetings is livestreamed on the PUC’s website.
State law requires contractors and residents to contact PA One Call at least three business days prior to excavation – triggering alerts to all utilities within an intended digging area and prompting utilities to mark where their facilities are located. Pennsylvanians can dial 8-1-1 to connect with the One Call system, while out-of-state residents or businesses can call 1-800-242-1776.