PUC Recognizes Safe Digging Month; Underscores Safety Issues
Published on 4/14/2022
Nearly Half of Line ‘Hits’ Reported Across Pennsylvania Involve Failure to Call 8-1-1 Before Digging or Not Waiting for Lines to be Marked
HARRISBURG – The month of April is National Safe Digging Month, and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) took the opportunity today to remind homeowners, businesses, contractors, facility owners and anyone else involved in excavation projects of the importance of calling 8-1-1 before any project begins and allowing the appropriate time for utility operators to locate and mark their lines before any digging begins.
The Hazards of “No Calls” or Early Excavation
According to the most recent PUC data, approximately 40% of all line “hits” are caused by failure to contact the Pennsylvania One Call (PA One Call) system by calling 8-1-1 before excavation, or failure to wait the required three business days before projects begin.
“We could quickly eliminate nearly half of all underground line hits in Pennsylvania if everyone involved in excavation projects made certain that calls are placed to 8-1-1 before any digging begins and adequate time is provided for lines to be marked,” noted PUC Vice Chairman John F. Coleman Jr.
Hits on underground lines pose a danger to contractors, utility workers, nearby residents and bystanders. Each incident carries the possibility of service interruptions, environmental damage, costly repairs, and/or serious injuries – which is why it is essential to contact PA One Call / 8-1-1 before any excavation work.
Homeowners Play Important Role in Safe Digging
A recent national safety survey found that a majority of homeowners personally plan to complete an improvement project involving digging over the next 12 months. The most common projects include:
- Planting a tree or shrub
- Building a fence
- Building a deck or patio
- Installing a mailbox
Importantly, the same survey found that almost half of the homeowners planning projects do NOT plan to call 8-1-1 before beginning their projects – which means nearly 35-million Americans are willingly putting themselves, their families and their neighbors at risk.
During Safe Digging Month, and throughout the rest of the construction season, the PUC encourages homeowners to take the following steps when planning a digging project this spring:
- Always contact 8-1-1 at least three business days before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property.
- Plan ahead by calling 8-1-1 early during the week, providing ample time for lines to be located and marked before starting any weekend projects.
- Confirm that all lines have been marked.
- Consider relocating projects that are near utility line markings.
- Verify that a contractor has contacted 8-1-1, if you are using a contractor for your project, and do not allow work to begin if lines are not marked.
PA One Call (8-1-1)
State law requires contractors and residents to contact the PA One Call system at least three business days prior to excavation – triggering alerts to all utilities within an intended digging area and prompting utilities and other facility owners 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 800-242-1776.
The PUC Damage Prevention Committee
The PUC’s Damage Prevention Committee, (DPC) was created in 2017, when Pennsylvania’s One Call Law was enhanced, with a focus on reducing 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. Last year, the DPC issued nearly $767,000 in civil penalties for various violations of the PA One Call Law.
About the PUC
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
Visit the PUC’s website at www.puc.pa.gov for recent news releases and video of select proceedings. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. Search for the “Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission” or “PA PUC” on your favorite social media channel for updates on utility issues and other helpful consumer information.
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