Excavators, contractors and homeowners: Call 811 before digging
Editorial by the New York State Public Service Commission
The New York State Public Service Commission recently announced it is participating in the nationwide effort to recognize April 2016 as "Safe Digging Month" as a way to remind excavators and contractors state law requires them to call one of the state's toll-free one-call centers before starting any excavation or digging project. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proclaimed April 2016 as Safe Digging Month in New York.
"Damage to underground utility facilities during excavation can result in loss of utility service, personal injury and property damage," New York State Public Service Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman said. "Therefore, I urge everyone who is going to be excavating to do their part in protecting vital energy infrastructure by simply dialing 811 before digging."
The keys to preventing damage to underground facilities are the two one-call notification systems that serve as communication links between contractors/excavators and the operators of underground facilities (local utilities/municipalities). New York 811 is the one-call notification system serving New York City and Long Island, while Dig Safely New York is the other, serving the remainder of the state. When calling from inside the areas served, either can be reached by simply dialing 811. In addition, both one-call centers allow locate requests to be submitted at any time through web-based ticket entry.
Along with participating in the nationwide Safe Digging Month program and Dig Safely New York, the commission's staff works diligently to enforce its gas safety regulations, which are among the most stringent in the nation, to ensure utility companies adhere to them regarding the safe operation of the utility's gas distribution system. To continue to improve gas safety, the commission routinely monitors the utilities' gas emergency plans to make sure they are up to date, to identify improvement areas and to ensure the plans are in compliance with the commission's gas safety requirements.
The commission, which oversees some 92,000 miles of gas pipelines transporting much-needed energy across the state to consumers, prides itself on its zealous safety oversight. The commission's rigorous review of utilities' natural gas infrastructure and operations exceeds federal requirements, and includes prescribing aggressive safety performance metrics, holding utilities financially accountable to meet standards, and conducting thousands of incident investigations. On a daily basis, the commission's team of highly trained employees closely monitors utility activity to ensure compliance.
New York leads in its use of financial incentives and penalties related to gas safety. Excavators who damage underground facilities due to the failure to follow the regulations are not only subject to civil penalties, but also are liable for repair costs. However, state law exempts excavators from liability for repair costs if the damage is caused by the utility's or municipality's failure to comply with the law, such as failure to participate in the one-call notification systems or failure to accurately mark the location of their underground facilities.
For more information about Dig Safely New York, go to www.digsafelynewyork.com or call 315-437-7394. For more information about New York 811, visit www.newyork-811.com or call 1-800-272-4480. For more information on 811, visit the www.call811.com web site. If you have difficulty understanding English, call 1-800-342-3377 for free language assistance services regarding this information.