Posted by Howard "Skip" Elliott, Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
April is officially National Safe Digging Month, which provides a vital opportunity to highlight the importance of safe digging and excavation as an everyday practice. As the seasonal changes of spring encourage more outdoor activities and projects, from landscaping to mailbox and patio installation, safe digging is critical. Excavation damage is the leading cause of serious pipeline incidents and has led to injuries, environmental damage, and even death.
Although excavation and pipeline damage is the foremost cause of pipeline incidents, it is also the most preventable. The number one tool for prevention is to call 8-1-1 or log onto clicks 811.com. This nationwide toll-free one call notification center has proven to be the most effective community resource in preventing excavation-related damage, and remains the mandatory first step in preparation of any digging or excavation project. Calling or clicking 811, at least 48 to 72 hours before any digging or excavation project, can confirm the location of intricate underground systems including hazardous liquid, natural gas and water pipelines, as well as electrical power lines, cables, telecommunication alarm systems, and sewer drains.
Industry data tells us that someone who breaks ground without calling 8-1-1 damages an underground utility line every six minutes…10 times per hour…240 times per day. Research confirms that if someone calls 8-1-1 before they dig, they have a 99 percent chance of not causing an unfortunate, costly incident.
The commitment of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to 8-1-1 awareness is reflected in nearly $1.3 million in One-Call grant awards for state damage prevention, annual 811 Poster and Video Contests for students, enforcement, the online state damage prevention rating resource system, collaboration with community organizations such as the Common Ground Alliance, and our Congressional publication, “A Study on Improving Damage Prevention Technology,” released in August 2017.
At PHMSA, we understand that protecting the nation’s more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines, as well as the people who dig around these underground utilities, is a shared responsibility. As we seek to attain a zero incidents annually, our organizational vision requires the support of hardworking safety professionals as well as community members utilizing 8-1-1 before all digging projects.
Hitting something you didn’t know was there can turn a productive Spring day into a nightmare. Calling 8-1-1 can prevent costly repairs, project delays, and potential fines. Throughout this month, as we acknowledge the importance of safe digging, we want to remind you that by calling or clicking 811 you can prevent a call to 9-1-1! Remember: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Pipeline Punctured Panic! Please be sure to visit Call 811 to learn more about safe digging or use PHMSA’s #Call811not911 on Twitter and Facebook throughout National Safe Digging Month (#NSDM). For more information about how you can practice safe digging, please be sure to visit PHMSA’s 811 webpage.