The excavation and construction efforts required to maintain and manage the complex web of underground infrastructure is a laborious activity, invisible to most. This work helps ensure the reliability of infrastructure vital to bringing the natural gas, electricity, and data services to homes and businesses in every community. When excavators and contractors fail to carefully follow proper procedures, economic loss, work disruptions, injury, and death can, and do, result. Leveraging new innovative technology in the excavation industry will reduce accidents and provide greater safety for all customers.
As the head of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, I oversaw the creation of the national 811 single-call system for assistance in locating utility lines. The establishment of this free system has helped reduce many potential dangers from digging near underground utility lines by ensuring the safety of the community through industry expertise and assistance. But there is more yet to do.
Safety must always take priority in the daily functioning and policies of utility companies, from the CEO to the worker in the field. Despite recent industry innovations making excavation risks easy to track and avoid, utilities, contractors and communities alike continue to experience an unacceptably high rate of excavation-related underground utility accidents.
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