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April 15, 2014

Energy officials promote digging safely

ALBANY — Underground utility lines can be a hidden hazard for anyone working on an outdoor excavation project.

In 2013 in upstate New York, there were 286 natural-gas or electrical-network accidents caused by damage to the utility system, according to a news release from National Grid.

Utility accidents can cause serious personal injury, property damage and service interruptions caused by accidentally digging into electric, gas, telephone, water, sewer or cable facilities, the release said.

The New York State Public Service Commission and National Grid remind excavators and contractors that state law requires them to call one of the state’s toll-free, one-call centers before starting any excavation or digging project.

Through the One-Call Notification Systems program, information is sent to local utility companies, which will then mark the location of any facilities at the excavation site. The service is provided free of charge.

Calls must be made at least two full working days, but no more than 10 working days, before any mechanized excavation, not including the day of the call.

According to the Public Service Commission, state law defines excavation as “…movement or removal of earth, rock or other materials in or on the ground by use of mechanized equipment or by blasting, and includes, but is not limited to auguring; backfilling; drilling; grading; plowing in; pulling in; trenching and tunneling. 

“Tools manipulated only by human or animal power and the tilling of soil for agricultural purposes shall not be deemed excavation.”

All operators of underground facilities, including municipal systems, are required to be members of the One-Call Notification System serving their area and to mark the location of their facilities in or near excavation work sites.

Once a facility is marked, excavators are required to check for the location, depth and direction of run of the facility by digging test holes by hand. 

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