McCrory signs bill by Hager
A bill prompted by the death of a worker in Iredell County and authored by Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford, was signed into law Friday by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.
House Bill 476 — called the “Rewrite Underground Damage Prevention Act” — provides laws aimed at improving “public/workforce safety and protect underground utility lines.”
The bill places requirements on contractors to call 811 and give notice of intent to excavate anywhere in the state.
“We tried to really put some structure and logic into underground utilities for about a decade now,” Hager said Monday. “I asked a lot of utility providers and they felt it was time to fix some of these things.”
Hager said authoring the bill came on the heels of a fatal accident in Iredell County where an excavator struck an underground electrical line that was not marked, killing the equipment operator.
“We talked about this death regarding a man who dug into a utility line that was placed wrong,” Hager said. “I asked how it came to that and really never got an answer and I felt it was the time to get something done.”
The bill also includes a documented training component and equipment calibration. Hager said, prior to the bill — which received unanimous support in the House and Senate — North Carolina “was among the weakest in the nation for underground safety and prevention laws, lacking basic guidelines, practices and standards necessary to ensure public/workforce safety and integrity of vital facilities.”
Other key parts of the bill include:
• Universal participation required by all underground facility owners/operators in NC811 “call before you dig” process, which will ensure all underground facility owners/operators with facilities in an area of proposed excavation are notified when excavation activities are planned;
• Clarification of owner/operator responsibilities when responding to a notice of intent to excavate and identifying and marking facilities.
“It adds an issue that if you don’t do the right thing there are consequences,” Hager said. “It really sets aside for those that know the law that egregiously go against the rules. There is a much, much bigger chance there will be a fine for it.”
Hager said the bill had been worked on for over a year with the help of Carolinas AGC — billed as the largest construction trade association in the Carolinas, according to its website — and draws from the Common Ground Alliance’s “best practices,” other state laws and industry standards.
“You won’t believe how many people this process will cover,” Hager said. “Just about everyone puts a shovel into the ground and they need to know where these utilities are. Someone can get killed if they don’t know and it happens all across the nation.
“This process will save lives. That is the bottom line.”