Call Before You Dig – It’s the Law

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The one-call notification process has been in place for decades. Awareness of the simple dial 811- Call Before you Dig message has continued to gain acceptance. The simple, and usually free call for excavators, results in underground facility operators being notified that excavation will occur near their assets. The operator of the assets will then mark the location of the underground facility or let the excavator know that the proposed area of excavation is clear of its facilities.

Congress has recently passed legislation that will require state governments to meet certain minimum standards relating to damage prevention. One key component of the legislation will require exemptions for all government entities and their contractors from the state one call programs to be removed. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has recently sent letters to every state that provides exemptions to these stakeholders. The letter provides information on the importance of the one call process and the consequences of exemptions, specifically the loss of federal funding if a state fails to address exemptions in state law.

There are four steps government entities can take to help in the prevention of damage to underground facilities.

1. Require all employees and contractors to dial 811 before digging regardless of any exemptions in local or state law.

2. When digging, always take safety precautions and follow the best practices established by the Common Ground Alliance.

3. Always report damage to the state notification center, by dialing 811, and the operator. Unreported and even minor damage can cause long-term harm to facilities.

4. Register all underground facilities with the appropriate one call center. It may be difficult to achieve this for old facilities, so consider updating the information when new facilities are built or existing facilities are replaced or upgraded.