Call before you dig
SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas and Electric Company reminds its customers and third-party contractors to call 8-1-1 before starting any excavation project, large or small. Excavation damage is among the leading causes of pipeline accidents in the United States. So far in 2013, PG&E has experienced more than 1,000 incidents where a third party dug into its natural gas pipelines or underground electric power lines without calling 8-1-1 first.
Striking and damaging underground gas and electric lines creates a serious safety concern for the public and the excavator. It can also impact gas and electric service to homes, schools and hospitals in the community. What’s more, repair costs billed to excavators can total several thousand dollars for damage to distribution lines and tens to hundreds of thousands for damage to larger transmission lines.
“Utility lines can sometimes be buried underground just below the surface due to soil erosion or grading. Whether planting a tree, installing a sprinkler system or building a fence, homeowners and professional excavators need to know where these lines lie underground before digging to prevent injuries, property damage and outages,” said David Appelbaum, manager of Damage Prevention.
When it comes to contractors digging safely on the job, calling 8-1-1 is just one of many steps contractors are required — in accordance with California Code 4216 — to take to keep customers and the pipeline system safe. Whenever a contractor is excavating, after they call 8-1-1, they must hand-dig around the pipe to ensure the pipeline’s safety prior to starting any work.
PG&E is committed to working with contractors, city governments to ensure the right steps are followed to maintain a safe pipeline system and it’s critical all parties follow state codes requiring hand-digging.
Calling 8-1-1 puts customers and contractors in direct contact with Underground Service Alert (USA), a free service that notifies local utility companies to mark the approximate location of their underground facilities in and around the excavation site. Anyone can call USA from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for holidays. California law requires anyone doing excavation work to notify utilities at least two working days before digging.
PG&E offers these tips for a safe excavation:
- If you believe a utility has not marked its lines, call 8-1-1 again to notify USA.
- To help utilities, excavators should mark the boundary of the proposed excavation area in white. On paved surfaces, use white chalk-based paint. On unpaved surfaces, use flags or stakes. Homeowners can use other white substances, such as sugar or flour to mark the proposed excavation area.
- Carefully use hand tools to excavate within 24 inches on either side of a utility marking.
- Be careful not to erase utility marks while working. If you cannot see the markings, call 8-1-1 and request a re-marking.
- 8-1-1 requests are active for 28 days. Notify USA if work continues beyond that time.
- Immediately notify PG&E about any type of contact or damage to its wires or pipes.
If there is any type of damage to PG&E electric wires or gas pipelines, or if there is a possible gas leak, take these steps:
- Move to a safe location upwind where you can no longer smell natural gas
- Call 9-1-1
- Call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000
For more information visit call811.com.