Industry News

NATIONAL SURVEY REPORTS on Utility Interruption during COVID-19

In observance of National Safe Digging Month (April), Common Ground Alliance (CGA) released the results from a recent national survey. The results revealed that a third of U.S. homeowners (33%) reported experiencing a utility service interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, of the 19.5 million U.S. homeowners who plan to dig this year for projects like gardening, building a fence or deck, installing a mailbox and more, nearly two in five (37%) will do so by digging without contacting 811 beforehand to learn the approximate location of underground utilities.

“The survey shows that experiencing utility interruptions has been a fairly common experience for Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no question that access to essential utility services is important to communities across the country. Given the current environment, disruptions to internet and phone services are particularly problematic, especially with so many people relying on these services more than ever to complete work, school, and so much more,” said Sarah Magruder Lyle, President and CEO of CGA.

The national public opinion survey of homeowners, conducted by CGA in late February, also revealed that one in five American homeowners (20%) have been more likely to do a DYI home improvement projects involving digging since the pandemic began – particularly gardening projects. 56% of homeowners who are planning to plant a tree or shrub this year said they were more likely to dig during the pandemic.

The most popular planned projects cited among surveyed homeowners who plan to dig include:

• Planting a tree or shrub (62%)

• Building a fence (37%)

• Installing a new deck or patio (32%)

• Installing a mailbox (20%)

• Installing a pool (6%)


Oklahoma Construction Contractor Cited for Repeat Infractions

OSHA has cited Cherokee Pride Construction Inc., of Sapulpa, Oklahoma for violations related to excavation work. Inspectors arrived at a job site in September 2020 to find “employees in standing water as they installed water lines in two trenches as part of a street widening project.”

OSHA determined that the company failed to protect workers from cave-ins and did not provide appropriate means of escape. Workers were also not wearing required PPE for the job.

Back in 2017, the agency cited Cherokee Pride for failing to provide a means for escape, allowing standing water inside an excavation site, and failing to fix ladder defects.

“OSHA recognizes the incidents of workers seriously hurt from trenching and excavation hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Steven A. Kirby. “The agency’s national emphasis program on trenching and excavation focuses its resources on preventing the potential for collapses.”


Teens Honored for Discovering Gas Leak

The town of Huntersville, North Carolina honored two teens back in March for discovering an environmental catastrophe that could have been a lot worse. Huntersville Mayor John Anarella gave “keys to the city” to teens Owen Fehr and Walker Sell.

The teens were riding all-terrain vehicles when they discovered a gas leak. An estimated 1.2 million gallons of gasoline had already been spilled. “We smelled something as we drove by, and it got worse and worse,” Sell said. Added Fehr, “I’ve smelled gas before and this smelled like a gas leak.”

Arnella said without the teens’ discovery and ability to show where they smelled the leak, millions of more gallons might have leaked. The mayor also praised Fehr and Sell for making sure the fire department was called to respond.


ORCGA LAUNCHES SAFE TRAINING PROGRAM

The Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance (ORCGA) launched a new training program and revived another that was forced onto the back burner because of COVID-19. The new Safe Excavating Practices (SEP) training program complements the Damage Prevention Technician (DPT) program that has been offered since the ORCGA’s inception 18 years ago.

The new SEP program has been developed as a halfday class session, but a virtual instructor-led model is also available. Targeted participants include machine operators and workers, managers and supervisors. Content will include instruction on such topics as what constitutes a ground marking; steps to take with facility damage; hazards and risks associated with digging near different conduits such as fiber, hydro cables, gas pipelines and watermains; hand digging technologies and trenchless technologies; and reading a locate form.

“The membership and our board felt there was a gap in what was available for training when you are digging around and excavating around buried utilities,” explained ORCGA President and CEO Douglas Lapp.


Liftboat Capsizes in the Gulf

A liftboat capsized in high winds and heavy seas April 15, eight miles off the shore of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Divers from the U.S. Coast Guard Heartland were able to reach the capsized Seacor Power and knocked on the vessel, but were not able to elicit any signs of life.

The Seacor Power overturned in winds of 80-90 miles per hour and capsized in 50-55 feet of water. The liftboat was used by the offshore energy industry to do maintenance and construction, and ferry drilling equipment to and from drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

There were 19 crew members on board when the vessel sunk. Six crew members were saved, with the other 13 members deceased or missing. The boat was owned by Houstonbased Seacor Marine and was being contracted by Talos Energy, Inc. to perform work at one of its oil platforms.

KorTerra Partners with One Call Centers

KorTerra, Inc., producers of damage prevention software for the utility industry, has partnered with One Call Centers in Wyoming and Connecticut to provide integrated positive response to members.

The integrated positive response feature developed by the company is available at no cost to members of the One Call Centers. Utilization of the feature allows facility owners and operators to provide excavators with immediate access to all positive response details and updated dig site information in one convenient online location. Excavators now have the ability to quickly confirm whether a site has been marked or cleared for proposed work to begin.

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