For the construction and utility industries, using the Oregon Utility Notification Center’s 811 service – perhaps better known for its tagline “Call before you dig” – is critical.
After all, the potential ripple effects of failing to take that crucial step before breaking ground in an area that may contain buried water, electricity, or natural gas lines include lives injured or lost, buildings damaged or destroyed, and financial costs that only pile up.
So far this year, Oregon OSHA, whose jurisdiction is worker safety, has issued seven citations to companies for failing to secure locations of underground lines before opening excavations. Those citations have totaled more than $13,000 in initial penalties. Four other investigations of such incidents remain active.
Meanwhile, Oregon experienced more than 2,000 line strikes in 2016 alone, according to the Oregon Public Utility Commission, whose program includes enforcement of utility safety standards. Nationwide, a line strike occurs every six minutes.
All of which is to say that, while using the 811 service is common practice for certain industries, its importance is sometimes lost in the rush to move dirt. What’s more, calling before you dig isn’t the only requirement that must be followed in accounting for the potential hazards of underground utilities.
Employers need to familiarize themselves with Oregon OSHA’s rules – spelled out in Division 3, Subdivision P, Excavations – and the state Utility Notification Center’s rules and requirements.
Oregon OSHA’s specific requirements are:
- The location of utilities must be determined before opening an excavation
- The exact location of the installations must be determined by safe and acceptable means
- While excavations are open, underground installations must be protected, supported, or removed as necessary to safeguard employees
Altogether, it’s a situation that calls for a fresh reminder of best practices, as well as a renewed commitment to safety.