IT IS YOUR LAWFUL START DATE. You arrived on site and see some colored flags and paint. The gas company has marked. It looks like the electric and water companies have as well. The homeowner told you they have cable service, but you don’t see an aerial line. The response list says the cable company is clear. What do you do?
It is natural to be frustrated when a locating job isn’t done right. You placed your dig notification three to 10 business days ago as the law requires. Why has the line not been marked? At this point it may be tempting to say, “I’ve done my part. I placed the ticket. If they didn’t mark, it’s on them.” However, in Pennsylvania, if a line is not marked or is marked incorrectly, you have additional responsibilities. You are required under PA Act 287 as amended to re-notify the affected facility owner through the One Call system. Failure to do so could result in an administrative penalty of up to $2,500 from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Or worse, you could damage a line, or someone could be injured. Even small telecommunications cables carry an electric current and should be treated with caution.
It is important to walk the job site when you first arrive to look for signs that there may be unmarked underground lines. Signs can be things like shut off valves, manholes, utility boxes and meters. If you see one, but don’t see utility marking in this area, you have an unmarked underground line at the site. It is not safe to assume that the line is deeper than you need to dig or that it is a dead line. The appropriate step is to call the One Call system and place a re-notify.
What is a re-notify? A re-notify is when the One Call system notifies a particular utility or utilities again with regard to a potential conflict at the work site. This should be done when markings are incomplete, unclear, or if a line is unmarked or potentially mismarked.
To begin the re-notify process, dial 811 and reference the serial number you were given when you placed the One Call notification. A friendly customer service representative will gather the pertinent details to send to the facility owner. A re-notify does not generate a new ticket serial number; the original ticket serial number will still serve as your reference number.
This call should be made upon your initial arrival to the site, and you should remain on site while awaiting the response from the facility owner. Do not start excavating until the facility owner has provided you with enough information to do so safely in the affected area. The facility owner should reach out to the onsite contact directly.
But how long is this going to hold up your job? The facility owner should make direct contact with you within two hours of the re-notify. If they don’t, you can proceed after waiting an additional hour, provided that you use prudent techniques while excavating until you identify the line. The project owner may not like the job being held up, but a delay is always preferable to a utility outage, damage, or injury.
Re-notifying is a way to keep everyone safe and it fulfills your obligations under the law. It may seem convenient to cut corners and dig if you think you know where an unmarked line is, but it could cost you. It is the facility owner’s responsibility to identify the location of the lines, so re-notify them and put the responsibility back into their hands instead of taking it into your own.
Andrew Miller is a Member Services Representative with Pennsylvania 811.
Editor’s note: This article is specific to the laws and procedures within the state of Pennsylvania. Contact you local One Call center for information on your state’s requirements.