As another “action” component to the industry topics discussed at The Roundtable, Planet Underground brought together industry leaders from all over the country to discuss and debate the contentious and important topics the damage prevention industry faces today. A followup meeting with attendees from the 2019 Roundtable event determined that the 2020 Position Paper would feature two pilot programs aimed at reducing late responses to dig requests, involving the participation of willing professional excavators and supported by local utilities and One Call centers. The Position Paper was presented to all other attendees of The Roundtable for their input.
These pilot programs may work outside existing state law, and as such would need the cooperation of the agency that enforces state law. Interest and support for these programs from most applicable parties has already been received, and any progress will be reported on in our next position paper.
Because their projects are the largest driver of One Call activity, facility owners and department of transportation agencies should share their proposed construction activity to an accessible repository. Tracking construction activity through such a repository will help identify areas with increased construction activity, which can help predict when a higher, unrealistic demand on locators will occur. This should be done far enough ahead of time to avoid problems for locators such as staffing and training issues that ultimately result in late responses to tickets.
Note: Beginning February 2020, one state’s facility owners and its One Call center are hosting meetings designed “to provide member utilities and other stakeholders with reported major projects planned in their area for 2020. The goal of this program is to assist stakeholders in forecasting and planning for appropriate staff resources to accommodate the projected workload.”
Contractors and excavators should be allowed to enter into Alternate Locate Agreements (ALAs) with facility owners, which would allow them to begin digging without a traditional One Call field locate.
Interested excavators would be given access to utility maps and be allowed to locate all utilities with ALAs using their own instrumentation, or by hiring a qualified locating company.
In addition, the primary contractor/excavator would also be responsible for providing locates for subcontractors working directly for them including SUEs, vacuum excavation, directional boring or other specialized excavating services without the need for further One Call requests in cases where an ALA was in use.
Both pilot programs would further incorporate the two positions put forth in The Roundtable’s previous position paper as summarized below.
2019 Planet Underground Position Paper
In reaction to numerous fatal incidents occurring over the last three years as a result of underground utility work, Planet Underground formulated its first ever Position Paper in 2019. This document, drawn from the opinions of industry leaders who spoke at The Roundtable, was then mailed to the U.S. senators of those states where these fatal, and completely avoidable, accidents happened. The two positions outlined in our 2019 Position Paper were:
1.There should be mandatory reporting of all damages.
2.All utility locators and excavators should be certified to a set of standards, agreed upon by all parties in the excavation process.