The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT's) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed a set of new procedures it hopes will improve excavation damage prevention programs and raise the penalties for violators.
Excavation damage has long been a leading cause of all pipeline failures, and is also recognized as the most severe threat to worker safety, reliability, and integrity of the natural gas distribution network. Between 2002 and 2011, excavation procedures led to more than 25 percent of fatalities involving pipeline failures.
"Safety is our top priority," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "It is important for states to have strong and effective enforcement programs as we work together to crack down on violators of these important laws."
The new rules will bolster states' excavation damage prevention enforcement programs, provide better protection for pipelines, and allow federal enforcement agencies to step in when state agencies may not.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), hazards within the trenching and excavation industry include working near heavy machinery, electrical hazards, manual handling of materials, and working in close proximity to traffic. Protect workers from these hazards by providing appropriate safety products, such as work gloves, hard hats, and high-visibility safety vests.