NTSB Identifies Three Factors to Reduce Gas Line Excavation Incidents

At last week's Damage Prevention Conference in Las Vegas, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker announced that the safety board has identified three key components to reducing pipeline and gas line excavation related incidents.

The event focused on reducing accidents involving buried pipelines, gas lines, and cables. Rosenker said improvements in practices with excavations and one-call notifications, along with faster damage reporting, will all make major contributions to pipeline safety.

Applauding the effectiveness of the 811 national one-call number, which has been promoted as the National Call-Before-You-Dig Number, Rosenker called for its continued promotion to encourage widespread use. He noted that of the 49,000 reported incidents of excavation damage to gas lines in 2006, one-call centers were not contacted in more than half of them. "There is no excuse for not calling the one-call before digging," Rosenker said.

Rosenker also highlighted the progress made in reporting practices that emerged from the recommendations the NTSB made after its investigation of a 1998 gas line accident in Minnesota that killed four and injured 11. There now are pipeline damage reporting best practices that advise excavators to immediately notify the pipeline operator if their work damages a pipeline, and to notify local authorities if the damage results in a release of natural gas or other hazardous substance.

Rosenker concluded his remarks by talking about the challenges facing those involved in excavations in an environment made increasingly complex by a growing web of underground facilities. "Today, there are more people, more homes, more schools, more businesses and more underground facilities. Nevertheless, excavation damage is preventable. We must be more vigilant than ever before," he said.

The full text of Rosenker's speech is available at www.ntsb.gov/speeches/rosenker/mvr071206.html.

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