April is Pipeline Damage Prevention Month

04/04/2011

Texas Railroad Commissioners encourage Texans to make a free call 
2 days before digging to know what’s below

AUSTIN––In Texas, the top cause of pipeline accidents occurs when someone is digging or excavating. So as part of April Damage Prevention Month, the Texas Railroad Commissioners are urging Texans to make a free call to 811 two days before beginning any springtime digging projects in their garden or yards. That call to state one-call notification centers will prompt pipeline operators to mark underground pipes in the area requested.

Excavation-related damages account for 76 percent of all Texas pipeline accidents. Corrosion accounts for another 12 percent, and operator error and material failure account for the remaining 12 percent of the state’s pipeline accidents. Since the Railroad Commission Program’s Damage Prevention Program began in 2007, more than 30,000 pipeline damage incidents due to digging have been reported to the Commission. Not calling 811 before digging or incorrectly marking a pipeline can result in fines of up to $10,000 per day per violation. Since 2007, the Commission has collected more than $3.5 million in penalties for damage prevention violations—dollars that go directly into the state’s General Revenue Fund.

Fortunately, the Commission’s efforts to spread the word about the importance of calling 811 before digging is resulting in fewer pipeline damage incidents each year. In 2010, 8,647 incidents of third-party excavation damage were reported to the Commission, a drop from the 9,858 incidents reported in 2009. The vast majority of these incidents are minor causing no injuries.

Commission Chairman Elizabeth Ames Jones said, “During damage prevention month, we remind everyone of the importance of dialing 811 at least two days before beginning any excavation. It is a simple, free and easy process that will result in the marking of underground pipelines. This helps everyone avoid hitting pipelines when digging, which results in greater protection and safety of contractor employees as well as the public.”

Commissioner David Porter said, “Last year, Commission staff has held more than 45 pipeline damage prevention educational meetings around the state. These events provide training to employees who work day in and day out in construction and other excavation activities. This is a truly important program that helps to enhance the safety of excavators as well as the integrity of our vast pipeline network of more than 300,000 miles in Texas.”

As part of the Commission’s continual education efforts, Pipeline Safety Division staff will be holding meetings April 4-8 with professional contractors and excavators in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and in conjunction with the Association of General Contractors and the state one-call notification centers. The meetings will be held in Edinburg, Brownsville, McAllen, Harlingen and Westlaco, respectively. All of the meetings will be taught in English and Spanish and are free to attendees. For more information on these meetings, send an e-mail to TDRFinfo@rrc.texas.gov. For additional Damage Prevention Month activities and safe digging practices, visit www.call811.com or www.rrc.texas.gov.