Excavation damage continues to be a leading cause of pipeline incidents.
Pipeline incidents caused by excavation damage can result in fatalities and injuries, as well as significant costs, property damages, environmental damages, and unintentional fire or explosions. PHMSA’s Pipeline Data Mart (PDM) allows you to query state-specific pipeline excavation damage data.
Summary of State Damage Prevention Laws
|Pipeline Incident 20 Year Trends|
|PHMSA has collected pipeline incident reports since 1970. The reporting regulations and incident report formats have changed several times over the years. PHMSA has merged the various report formats to create pipeline incident trend lines going back 20 years. Follow this link.|
In 2010, PHMSA enlisted the help of the North American Telecommunications Damage Prevention Council (NTDPC) to survey and summarize state damage prevention laws relative to specific characteristics, such as requirements applicable to excavators and utility operators. You may view the summary online or download the summary spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel format).
Notice: PHMSA has issued a Final Rule to revise Federal pipeline safety regulations to establish criteria and procedures relating to determining the adequacy of state damage prevention law enforcement programs, and enforcement proceedings where Federal authority is exercised.
Notice: In October 2014 PHMSA submitted to Congress a report entitled, "A Study on the Impact of Excavation Damage on Pipeline Safety”. The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011 (Public Law 112–90, January 3, 2012) directed the Secretary of Transportation to conduct this study on the impact of excavation damage on pipeline safety, including the impact of removing all exemptions for mechanized equipment from State one-call laws.
State Damage Prevention Program Characterizations
Since 2009 PHMSA has lead assessments to characterize the extent to which the nine elements of effective damage prevention programs are being incorporated into each state’s damage prevention program. The nine elements were cited by Congress in the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety (PIPES) Act of 2006. Working with state pipeline safety program managers and one-call centers, PHMSA seeks to gain a better understanding of the successes and challenges existing in state damage prevention programs, where additional improvement is needed, and where PHMSA should focus its assistance.
PHMSA conducted state damage prevention program characterization (SDPPC) assessments in 2009, 2011, and again in 2014. The updated characterizations have shown that States have taken steps to strengthen their programs, but there remain areas where state programs could still be improved relative to the nine elements. See more discussion of the SDPPC initiative.
PHMSA's Community Liaisons (formerly Community Assistance and Technical Services)
PHMSA’s Community Liaisons serve as "trusted" and "credible" stewards of public safety and environmental protection by raising awareness and influencing change to continuously improve pipeline safety. If you need assistance with any of the following pipeline safety related matters, please contact a PHMSA Community Liaison today:
- Pipeline safety policy/programs (damage prevention, public awareness, emergency response, PIPA, etc.)
- Pipeline stakeholder engagement and outreach
- Pipeline technical services and support (public inquiries, whistleblowers, post incident/accident communications, siting and permit initiatives)
- Questions about pipeline safety in your community
Grants to States and Communities
PHMSA provides grant opportunities intended to help improve state damage prevention programs.
It is important that everyone Dig Safely by always following safe digging practices.
The primary tool for avoiding damages to underground facilities is timely communication between excavators and the owners of the facilities. It is important to Call Before You Dig and Dig Safely. One-call centers facilitate this communication process by enabling an excavator to place just one call, prior to digging, to request that all underground facilities in the area of a planned excavation be located and marked.
By simply making a free call to 811, you can reach the one-call center that will notify the companies that may operate underground utilities in the area you plan to dig. Those companies can then dispatch locate crews to determine and mark the exact location of their utilities so that you can avoid hitting them when you begin your excavation. If, for some reason, you can’t connect to the one-call center by dialing 811, dial 1-888-258-0808 or visit Call811.com and select the Local Info tab for information to call the one-call center directly.
Hitting underground utilities when you are digging can cause injuries, even deaths, environmental damage and loss of critical infrastructure and services. If you don’t make the call, you could be liable for damage costs and repairs, as well as subject to potential penalties. It is important to call the one-call center before you dig – anytime of the year and no matter who you are or how big or small your project is. The call is free so Call 811 Before You Dig.
Common Ground Alliance (CGA)
In 1999, PHMSA published the Common Ground Study of One-Call Systems and Damage Prevention Best Practices. The purpose of the Common Ground Study was to identify and validate existing best practices performed in connection with preventing damage to underground facilities. The collected best practices are intended to be shared among stakeholders involved with and dependent upon the safe and reliable operation, maintenance, construction, and protection of underground facilities. The best practices contain validated experiences gained that can be further examined and evaluated for possible consideration and incorporation into state and private stakeholder underground facility damage prevention programs. In 2000, the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) was formed to further the work completed during the study. The CGA works cooperatively to enhance underground damage prevention by:
- Fostering a sense of shared responsibility for the protection of underground facilities;
- Identifying and disseminating the stakeholder best practices;
- Developing and conducting public awareness and education programs;
- Supporting research and development; and,
- Serving as a clearinghouse for damage data collection, analysis, and dissemination.
The organization’s motto was and continues to be “Damage Prevention Is a Shared Responsibility.” Join the CGA and help reduce the risk of damage to underground facilities.Damage Prevention Assistance Program
PHMSA has developed guidance, “Strengthening State Damage Prevention Programs”, to assist stakeholders. The guidance draws on the definition of effective damage prevention programs found in the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety (PIPES) Act of 2006. It examines the nine elements specified in the PIPES Act and makes suggestions for implementing them at the state level. State programs can be improved by incorporating the nine elements and by identifying and implementing positive changes in processes, procedures, technologies and damage prevention laws.
One-Call Technology Pilot Project
We partnered with damage prevention stakeholders in Virginia to use existing GPS technology to enhance the quality of communication among excavators and owners of underground facilities. The Phase I Report includes guidance on how other States could incorporate GPS technology in their One-Call Center communications.
Pipeline Operator Public Awareness Programs
Federal pipeline safety regulations require pipeline operators to conduct continuing public awareness programs to provide pipeline safety information to stakeholders.
Comprehensive Report on Pipeline Mechanical Damage
This work consolidates a collective knowledge on the many aspects of mechanical damage to pipelines. The report has three main parts addressing damage prevention, detection and characterization from primarily an onshore, transmission pipeline perspective. However, the prevention portion of this report is significant for gas distribution systems. Pipeline Mechanical Damage. [This is a large file (approx. 40 MB)].
Research & Development (R&D)
The importance of damage prevention is recognized within our R&D program by establishing a distinct category for projects geared toward damage prevention. Damage Prevention R&D Projects are designed to provide stakeholders with improved tools to reduce the risk of excavation damage.
PHMSA Advisory Bulletins
We have consistently taken a non-regulatory approach to pipeline damage prevention. However, we have used Advisory Bulletins to emphasize important actions pipeline operators can take to protect their pipelines. In May 2002, we urged pipeline operators to follow the CGA Best Practices for damage prevention. In January 2006, we described preventable accidents caused by construction-related damage and called on operators to ensure they use qualified personnel to perform critical damage prevention tasks. In November 2006, we emphasized the importance of following damage prevention best practices, especially for marking the location of underground pipelines prior to excavation.