PHMSA has recently issued an advisory bulletin to pipeline operators in response to recent excavation incidents in Texas, Wyoming, California, and Virginia. This comes on the heels of another Advisory Bulletin (ADB 06-01, published in the Federal Register on January 17,2006 (71 FR 2613)) issued to pipeline operators affirming the DOT’s expectations for excavation tasks to be covered under operator qualification programs. The most recent Advisory Bulletin can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here.
Within this advisory bulletin, PHMSA advises pipeline operators to take the following damage prevention measures:
- Use safe locating excavation practices. Follow your procedures and processes for excavation and backfill. When constructing a new pipeline, honor the marking of existing pipelines.
- Locate and mark pipelines accurately before locating excavation begins. Do not rely solely on maps, drawings, or other written materials to locate pipelines.
- Make sure that individuals locating and marking the pipelines have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to read and understand pipeline alignment and as-built drawings, and that they know what other buried utilities exist in the construction area.
- Make sure that individuals locating and marking the pipelines have up-to-date pipeline alignment and as-built drawings.
- Make sure that individuals locating and marking the pipelines are familiar with state and local requirements on marking.
- Mark all pipelines, including laterals. This is especially important in areas where there is a considerable amount of new pipeline and utility construction.
- Consider environmental conditions such as rain and snow when selecting marking methods.
- In areas where the pipelines are curved or make sharp bends to avoid other utilities or obstructions, consider the visibility and frequency of markers.
- Confirm the accuracy of pipe locating before locating excavation begins. This applies when the pipeline operator conducts the excavation using its own employees, a contractor, or a third party.
- Use qualified personnel for locating and marking pipelines. At a minimum, they should have received appropriate training such as that outlined in the National Utility Locating Contractors Association locator training standards and practices.
- Make sure excavators have sufficient information about underground pipelines at the construction site to avoid damage to the pipeline. Facilitate communication during the construction activity.
- Calibrate tools and equipment used for line locating and make sure they are in proper working order.
- Individually mark pipelines located within the same trench where possible.
- Follow the best practices on locating and marking pipelines developed by the Common Ground Alliance.
- When pipelines are hit or almost hit during excavation, evaluate the practices and procedures in use before continuing the construction activity.
- Operators should use the full range of safe locating excavation practices. In particular, pipeline operators should ensure the use of qualified personnel to accurately locate and mark the location of its underground pipelines.