NC General Assembly Passes Underground Utility Safety and Damage Prevention Law

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The North Carolina House–in a 111-0 vote–approved legislation sought by Carolinas AGC that will save lives, help ensure public/workforce safety and protect vital underground utility lines. The catalyst for developing this comprehensive legislation was a fatal 2009 accident, where an excavator, operating boring equipment near Statesville, NC, hit an underground active electric line that was not properly marked.

Passage of House Bill 476 caps more than a decade of advocacy by a large group of affected stakeholders, including CAGC, and months of negotiations in the NC General Assembly this year in helping to rewrite North Carolina’s underground safety laws.

The legislation was developed by a group of underground utility safety and damage prevention stakeholders from the telecommunications, gas, electric, and construction industries; including municipal/rural utilities, state and local governments, the NC Department of Transportation and others. H476 brings much needed clarity to North  Carolina’s “call before you dig” 811 process.

“This legislation will move North Carolina from having one of the weakest underground utility safety/damage prevention laws in the nation to what will arguably be one of the strongest,” said Allen Gray, CAGC utility director who chaired a stakeholders’ group in the Legislature.

Some highlights of the legislation, expected to be approved by NC Governor Pat McCrory, include:

— Excavators are required to dial 811 on their phone to give notice of intent to excavate when excavating anywhere in the state. This will connect them directly to the NC811, who will notify all facility owner/operators with underground facilities in the area of proposed excavation.

— Universal participation is required by all underground facility owner/operators in the NC811 “call before you dig” process, which will ensure all underground facility owner/operators with facilities in an area of proposed excavation are notified when excavation activities are planned.

— Clarification of owner/operator responsibilities when responding to a notice of intent to excavate and identifying and marking facilities. Read More.