April is National Safe Digging Month

04/05/2012

Texas Railroad Commissioners remind Texans to make a free call to 811

AUSTIN ––April marks the fifth annual National Safe Digging Month, and Texas Railroad Commissioners are urging Texas residents to always to make a free call to 811 before any digging project. A call to one-call notification centers will prompt pipeline operators to mark their underground pipelines in the area requested, making springtime digging projects in gardens and yards safe.

In Texas, the top cause of pipeline accidents occurs when someone is digging or excavating. 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. Excavation-related pipeline damage incidents have dropped since the inception of the Commission’s Damage Prevention program from 12,847 in 2007 to 8,503 in 2011, a 34 percent decrease in excavation related damage incidents.

Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman said, “As April marks the traditional start of digging season, we are getting the word out this month to strongly encourage individuals and companies to call 811 before they begin digging. Excavation-related damages account for 76 percent of all Texas pipeline accidents. By calling 811 to have the underground utility lines in their area marked, homeowners and contractors are making an important decision that can help keep them and their communities safe.”

Commissioner David Porter said, “Building a deck, installing a mailbox, and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after a call to 811. We at the Commission reinforce the ‘Call Before you Dig’ message by conducting pipeline damage prevention educational programs across the state. With a pipeline network of more than 300,000 miles in Texas, every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811.”

When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to a local one-call center which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their digging plan. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, paint or both. Striking a pipeline can result in injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages.

In Texas, not calling 811 before digging or incorrectly marking a pipeline can result in fines of up to $10,000 per day per violation. Since the Railroad Commission’s Pipeline Damage Prevention Program began in Sept. 2007, almost 45,000 pipeline damage incidents due to digging have been reported to the Commission. During that same time, the Commission has collected more than $4.7 million in penalties for damage prevention violations—dollars that go directly into the state’s General Revenue Fund.

As part of the Commission’s ongoing educational efforts for excavators and contractors, Texas Railroad Commission Pipeline Safety Division staff will work in partnership with the Houston and Harris County area Damage Prevention Council to host a series of free pipeline safety presentations. Scheduled for April 16 – 20, the meetings will provide excavators and underground facility operators with information on the Texas Underground Pipeline Damage Prevention Rule. 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.

About the Railroad Commission

Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including more than 90 years regulating the oil and gas industry. Additionally, the Commission promotes research and education on the use of alternative fuels and has jurisdiction over gas utility, surface mining and pipeline industries. Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. To learn more, please visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov/.