HARRISBURG – The month of April is National Safe Digging Month, and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) took the opportunity today to remind consumers, businesses and contractors of the importance of identifying underground infrastructure before beginning to dig – as well as encouraging utilities and municipalities to explore the benefits of closer coordination for infrastructure projects.
“Spring traditionally brings more construction and home improvement activity, which can increase the risk of damage to underground utility lines when proper safeguards are not taken,” said Commissioner John F. Coleman Jr. “Every hit on an underground line poses a danger to contractors, utility workers and nearby residents, along with the possibility of service interruptions, environmental damage and costly repairs to damaged lines – which is why it is essential to contact the Pennsylvania One Call (PA One Call) system by calling 8-1-1 before any excavation work, to ensure that lines are properly located and marked.”
State law requires contractors and residents to contact PA One Call at least three business days prior to excavation – triggering alerts to all utilities within an intended digging area and prompting utilities 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 1-800-242-1776.
Commissioner Coleman also encouraged utilities, contractors and municipalities to explore the added benefits of the PA One Call system’s “Coordinate PA” program, which can help better coordinate project schedules, fostering collaboration and potential cost savings.
“Collaboration on projects is a ‘win-win’ for everyone involved,” noted Commissioner Coleman. “For example, if a utility is planning to replace underground lines in a particular area in August, but the local municipality is planning to repave those streets in June, it would be better and more cost-effective for both entities to coordinate their schedules so that construction work is complete before the repaving begins, rather than digging up a new street.”
Closer collaboration and better information about project schedules can also help multiple utilities coordinate their schedules in communities or neighborhoods – avoiding repeated street closures and multiple repairs in the same area, which is not only expensive, but also disruptive to local businesses and residents. Commissioner Coleman encouraged municipalities, utilities and contractors involved in utility work to explore the potential benefits of Coordinate PA.
The PUC’s Damage Prevention Committee (DPC) was created in 2017, when Pennsylvania’s the “One Call Law” was enhanced, with a focus on reducing the number of “hits” on underground utilities. Part of the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, which also includes the Pipeline Safety Division, the DPC was modeled after successful programs in other states. 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.