Positive Response: When You Can Dig Early

DIG_EARLY.png

All excavators are required by law to check PRS before digging. Be proactive and check PRS early through Sunshine 811’s app or at sunshine811.com. If all utilities clear your dig site or use a code that doesn’t require additional action, you may be able to begin digging early. [s.556.105(9)(c)].

You can dig before the required time has expired if all members listed on your ticket have responded to PRS and you have taken care of any special instructions left by any members. Marked codes with exceptions may have an additional step. See the individual code for instructions.

At the end of two or 10 full business days, directly contact any members that have not responded [s.556.105(9)(c)].

 

Safe Digging: Digging inside the Tolerance Zone - Potholing

shutterstock_56108683.jpg

Safely exposing an underground facility is the best way to work within the tolerance zone. That way you know precisely where the underground facility is located, making it easier to avoid.

Before you can use mechanized digging equipment in a tolerance zone, you must verify the presence and location of the buried facility. There are many non-destructive methods to expose underground facilities including hand digging, vacuum excavation, pot holing and soft digging. If you must remove pavement or masonry, equipment can be used, but only to the depth of that pavement or masonry.

If you are unable to locate the facility after performing a reasonable search, contact the facility owner directly for help. Once the facility is located, mechanized digging equipment can be used.

If you will be exposing a facility during your excavation, you are required to provide adequate support and protection for it. An unsupported portion of a line can pull and distort a joint or splice that is out of sight. The damage can occur several feet up the line - underground - and you'd never see it.In addition, you are required to provide an adequate backfill upon completion. 

Safe Digging: Sticky Tolerance Zones

Sometimes tolerance zones can be tricky. In the example below a hospital is adding a drop-off area to the front of the building (indicated by the purple box). It is located in a major intersection with many underground facilities.

tz1.gif

 Here, the facility locators have marked the communications and electric lines. The gray area represents your work site, which you have white lined. What you notice is the communications (orange) line runs through your work site and the electric line is outside your worksite. 

Here, the facility locators have marked the communications and electric lines. The gray area represents your work site, which you have white lined. What you notice is the communications (orange) line runs through your work site and the electric line is outside your worksite. 


 The entire tolerance zone for the communications line is within your work site. Remember, the tolerance zone is 24 inches on either side of the underground facility. Because the electric line is outside your work site, can you assume that beyond the communications line you can dig freely?

The entire tolerance zone for the communications line is within your work site. Remember, the tolerance zone is 24 inches on either side of the underground facility. Because the electric line is outside your work site, can you assume that beyond the communications line you can dig freely?


 NO! When you figure the tolerance zone for the electric line, you see that it runs within your work site. If you dig beyond the communication's tolerance zone without first verifying where the electric line runs, you run the risk of damaging the electric line.

NO! When you figure the tolerance zone for the electric line, you see that it runs within your work site. If you dig beyond the communication's tolerance zone without first verifying where the electric line runs, you run the risk of damaging the electric line.

Safe Digging: Measuring the Tolerance Zone

more-than-6-inches.gif

Every underground facility has a tolerance zone. The tolerance zone helps protect facilities from damage. It offers a margin of error for those times when the underground facility is not directly underneath the locate marks.

In Florida, the tolerance zone for an underground facility is the width of the line, cable or pipe plus 24 inches on either side. 

Marks Have Meaning: It's All in the Colors

The color above ground is your guide. It tells you what type of facility is underground. The APWA has a set of uniform color codes that apply in every state. Each utility in Florida has its own standards for marking. There is no standard way to mark. But, the colors are required by law to be consistent. If you find that any facility owner is not using the correct color, please notify our liaisons immediately.  

st_cc.png
 

 

The color of the pipe underground does NOT represent the facility

It's tempting to think that orange PVC is running communications lines inside, but look at this photo. 

The orange PVC carried petroleum. Making this wrong assumption and digging with a back hoe could cost you your life as well as cause evacuations and other injuries. We at 811 take our job seriously and want to prevent you from making this assumption. Only use the flags and marks as your guideline.

 This orange PVC pipe carried petroleum. Making this wrong assumption could cost your life. All we want is for you to go home at the end of the day.
pipes_color.jpg

Jobsite Inspection: Checking the Marks

st_2.png

The marks at your jobsite, and how you interpret them, can make or break your safety. The most important thing you can do is compare the marks to your positive response codes. There can be some obvious signs of something wrong.

Do the Marks Match What You See?

Let's say you arrive at the work site and see marks for communications, but from positive response you learned there should also be marks for electric.

Why would this happen?

  • The locator could have misunderstood the marking instructions and marked the wrong place within your work site.
  • A completely different work site was marked.
  • It could also mean that the marks were destroyed before you got to the work site.
  • Maybe kids or vandals pulled up the flags.

These are all possibilities and you shouldn't begin until you've done some checking. In the situation mentioned in the first paragraph, the best thing to do is contact the electric company.


Identifying Properly Placed Marks

When flags and paint are used together, flags are usually placed within the borders of the paint mark. If you find flags set away from the paint mark, they may have been tampered with. Once again, if something doesn't look right to you, STOP and check it out. A call to the facility owner may be necessary.

The following pictures show proper paint and flag placement.

flag_proper.jpg

NEVER assume that "no marks" at the work site means "no lines."

Others have, particularly when other facility marks are visible within the work site. This incorrect interpretation can result in a damage or worse, injuries and death.

In the left photo below there are no locate marks. The excavator assumed that meant no lines were present. It was the wrong assumption to make. Make sure you check the positive response system and verify, verify, verify the lines that are present.

backhoe_unmarked.jpg

Safe Digging: Depth

depth.png

Flags and painted lines on the ground tell you the horizontal direction the facility is running. They do not tell you its depth. If you are going to cross or work near an existing facility, you may want to first verify its depth by hand digging.

Yes, there are standards for installing underground facilities at a certain depth. But that depth can change over years.

In the example above, the power line was buried at a depth of three feet. Later, the area was developed and landscaped. At the berm the line is now five feet underground, but at the swale it is only one foot below the surface. Accidentally discovering this situation could literally be a heart stopping experience.

The best way to know how deep the line is buried it to expose it using the safe digging methods mentioned in another module.

Jobsite Inspection: When Marks are Missing

st_1.png

It's always a good idea to take a look around your work site before digging. Make sure that what you see is reflected in the Positive Response System codes. If something doesn't look right to you, STOP and check it out. You can never be too safe.

During site inspection, you should also look for depressions in the ground that are not marked. They may be signs of an old facility. Any utility contractor can tell stories of discovering things that are not marked or don't show up on any map. Use your detective skills.

depression2.jpg
gas_affects.jpg
 

If you're working near a gas pipeline, the following situations could indicate a gas leak. Contact the gas pipeline owner. Digging into this could create a life-threatening condition.

Positive Response promotes 2-way communication

Sunshine 811's Positive Response System is a way for member utility companies to communicate with excavators about their job sites. A utility enters one of 23 positive response codes that lets you know if that utility is marked, unmarked, not in conflict (clear) or high priority.

Utilities may also leave you comments about your job site. These comments are available only online.

The codes below require either you or the member utility to respond:


2C: YOU MUST CONTACT THE MEMBER BECAUSE A TRANSMISSION OR DISTRIBUTION PIPELINE FOR HAZARDOUS/HIGHLY VOLATILE PRODUCTS IS NEAR YOUR DIG SITE.

Note: The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration can fine $200,000 per day per incident up to $2 million for multiple damages when a PHMSA-regulated pipeline is damaged.


2D: CONTACT THE UTILITY IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HIGH PROFILE UTILITY IN CONFLICT.


3A: CALL THE UTILITY TO SCHEDULE A TIME WHEN THE SITE WILL BE ACCESSIBLE.


3B: CALL 811 TO CORRECT ADDRESS INFORMATION.


3M: CONTACT LOCATOR/UTILITY TO CLARIFY THE MARKING INSTRUCTIONS.


3N: OUTLINE THE SPECIFIC AREA WHERE YOU'RE DIGGING WITH WHITE PAINT. CONTACT THE UTILITY WHEN COMPLETE. (Finding this out early in the process will help you avoid unnecessary delays.)


3P: CONTACT UTILITY TO PROVIDE ACCURATE INFORMATION.


3T: YOU NEED TO WAIT THE TWO FULL BUSINESS DAYS EVEN THOUGH THE UTILITY HAS DECLARED EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES.