Tougher dig safety law goes into effect

January 29, 2013

By Staff

Changes to the state call-before-you-dig law went into effect Jan. 1, and the updated rules include stiffer penalties, mandatory damage reporting and clearer procedures — even for deep digging in a garden or yard.

The law affects all excavators, including contractors, homeowners and utilities. State lawmakers passed the law in 2011 at the request of the state Utilities and Transportation Commission. Officials said the switch is intended to decrease damage to underground pipelines and utilities.

Under the law, excavators and utilities must report to the Utilities and Transportation Commission any damage to underground facilities within 45 days. Under the previous law, excavators only had to report damage to regulated natural gas and hazardous liquid facilities.

What to know

Call 811 or go to www.callbeforeyoudig.org to locate a line for free before digging more than 12 inches, even in a residential yard or garden.

The law did not change the current requirement for all residents to call for a utility location at least two business days prior to digging, including any digging more than 12 inches in a residential yard or garden.

The updated law also requires excavators to outline the proposed dig area in white paint prior to calling to locate a line, make arrangements with the affected utilities if projects exceed 700 linear feet and maintain location marks for 45 days. Utilities must register with the state call center, mark all locatable facilities and provide information to the excavator about unlocatable facilities.

The law created a dispute resolution board to hear complaints of violations and recommend enforcement action.

Penalties increased from $1,000 per violation to $1,000 for the initial violation and up to $5,000 for subsequent violations within a three-year period. If a homeowner or other excavator fails to request a location and damages a hazardous liquid or gas transmission pipeline, he or she is subject to a $10,000 penalty and could face a misdemeanor charge.

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