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.
Property damage and service outages are common results of poor excavation practices and can warrant large fines and costly repairs. In 2013, excavators and contractors damaged more than 2,000 utility lines. Increasing education and enforcing essential safety protocols safety will help ensure the reliability and efficiency of this vital infrastructure.
Yet, there is more that can and must be done. Government and industry need to agree on safety as a common priority and work together to fully capitalize upon the latest safety technologies. Among other measures, utilizing new technological innovations such as GPS and GIS mapping as well as the deployment of virtual white lining to mark underground infrastructure will help protect against unnecessary consequences, and applies equally to both construction professionals and homeowners working on home improvement projects.
The U.S. can increase safety for everyone by requiring increased implementation of new technologies and improved company standards and best practices. The solution to ensuring safety is not ambiguous. It is an easy path forward; and it is also the responsible solution.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)