Eliminating Unsafe Exemptions to Improve Damage Prevention

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When it comes to underground wires, pipes and cables that make our world run each day, maintaining their safe and continual operation is the top priority. Accomplishing this objective is all about damage prevention. Despite the ease of locating underground facilities, many states provide exemptions from one-call laws to certain entities. The exemptions allow certain state agencies, municipalities and other parties to excavate without determining where underground facilities are located. Such exemptions have created a gap that places the excavator in a potentially dangerous situation, but one that is entirely avoidable.

In response to several recent Congressional actions to address pipeline safety and underground damage prevention, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation, proposed a rulemaking that would discourage states from granting unsafe exemptions. The PHMSA proposal requires states to submit a written justification of all one-call exemptions and stipulates that such exemptions should be “limited and justified” and substantiated by data. Under the proposal, states will potentially lose federal funding if the state fails to meet certain minimum criteria, which includes the requirement to make a one-call prior to excavating.

Improper excavation remains the number one cause of accidents involving pipelines and the leading cause of the injuries and fatalities that are sustained as a result. Making a one-call to 811 is simple, easy and usually free to the caller. Everyone from facility owner/operators to excavators has a responsibility to ensure the call is made in order to protect the safety of their employees and that of the people and the environment around them. For more information on underground damage prevention programs or 811, visit www.commongroundalliance.com.