Page 8 - Alabama 811 Magazine 2022 Issue 1
P. 8

Pipeline Safety
by Wallace Jones
Director, Gas Pipeline Safety Alabama Public Service Commission
What do we think about when we use the term “pipeline safety”? We use the phrase “pipeline safety” in many different aspects. We reference “pipeline safety” when we discuss incidents that cause damage to underground facilities. We talk about “pipeline safety” when projects are being designed to not interfere with other underground facilities. “Pipeline safety” is a focal point during tailgate meetings when maintenance activities are being considered. So, which is the most important? ALL of them. No one part of “pipeline safety“ is more important than any other.
April is “Safe Digging Month” each year. In Alabama, we are fortunate to have the Governor sign a proclamation to this effect each year. This is done in hopes that all Alabamians will take notice of what is in the ground around them and take extra precautions to avoid damages. Unfortunately, this is
not the case most years. People get
in a hurry to get a project done and don’t think about making the call
to 811 to have all their underground utilities marked prior to excavating. “Safe Digging Month” should not just
be in April each year; it should be all year long. I have the following as my signature on every email that goes out of my office: April is “Dig Safely” Month. Let’s keep it safe all year long. Let’s Make Every Day a “Dig Safely Day”
in Alabama. I take “pipeline safety” very seriously and want everyone else to. The only way to do that is to keep “pipeline safety” in the forefront of every excavation project that is being conducted near any underground facilities, whether it is natural gas, hazardous liquids, water, sewer, electricity or telecommunications. All these are vital services that must be protected each day.
Alabama now has a section of the Damage Prevention Law that deals with Design and Survey Requests (§37-15-4.1 of the Law). This section of the law was added to assist engineers and others that might be working on a project
that involves proximity to underground facilities. These locate requests allow the project designer to “see” where the underground facilities are marked so they can design the project to go around the other facilities, or plans can be made to relocate the existing facilities to avoid any possible conflict. This assists in helping “pipeline safety” be a topic of any planning that might take place on the projects.
How can “tailgate meetings” be a part of “pipeline safety”? Project leaders should always know what facilities they might be encountering each day. Tailgate meetings are a good time to
share thoughts on “pipeline safety”
and other areas of concern before the crews head out to work. If the leaders have done their due diligence and have studied the work area ahead of time, they should know what underground facilities they might be encountering each day. By discussing the requirements of the Alabama Damage Prevention Law with the workers prior to them going on site, “pipeline safety” can be shared with each member of the crew so that better attention is paid to the underground facilities within their work area.
Another aspect of “pipeline safety” is the new Alabama Underground Damage Prevention Authority. This group of stakeholders from all different groups of excavators and regulatory agencies has the responsibility of enforcing the Alabama Damage Prevention Law. This Authority determines if an excavator has violated a section of the Law (found on the website) and what actions should be taken to educate that individual or company. The Authority can require a training session for the alleged violator (conducted on-line by Alabama 811), or they can levy a fine based on the severity of any damage resulting from the violation, or both. This is all set out in the Law under State Code, §37-15. All operators and excavators need to make themselves familiar with the new provisions in the Law.
“Pipeline Safety” does not extend to just natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. The same care that should be used around these should be used for any underground facility. Let’s take the proper steps to make this a reality in Alabama, and make Alabama a safer place to work, live, and play.
6 • Alabama 811 2022, Issue 1

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