Excavation damage continues to be a leading cause of serious pipeline incidents.
Serious pipeline incidents can result in fatalities and injuries requiring hospitalization. PHMSA has undertaken a broad array of initiatives designed to engage all stakeholders in efforts to reduce the risk of excavation damage to pipelines.
Summary of State Damage Prevention Laws
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 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to revise the Pipeline Safety Regulations to establish criteria and procedures for determining the adequacy of state damage prevention law enforcement programs. Persons interested in submitting written comments on the NPRM must do so by June 1, 2012.
State Damage Prevention Program Characterizations
In 2009 PHMSA initiated an effort to assess the extent to which each state is taking steps to incorporate the nine elements of effective damage prevention programs into the 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 sought to gain a better understanding of the successes and challenges existing in state damage prevention programs, where states need improvement, and where PHMSA should focus its assistance. In 2011 PHMSA initiated an effort to update the SDPPC evaluations. The results of the SDPPC initiative are available. States are taking steps to strengthen their programs and as a result these program characterizations may change from time to time.
Community Assistance and Technical Services (CATS) Program
PHMSA can, upon request, help initiate and facilitate discussions between state damage prevention stakeholder who may be exploring opportunities to strengthen the state program. Complementary technical support and guidance is available through PHMSA’s CATS Program.
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 dialing 811, you can reach the one-call center where, at no cost to you, companies that may operate underground utilities in the area you plan to dig will be notified. 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
Our regulations require pipeline operators to provide pipeline safety awareness messages to several stakeholder audiences. Information about damage prevention is a crucial component of these Public Awareness messages.
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.