State lawmakers can boost public safety by supporting the call-before-you-dig law

Author: Tony Milo - April 16, 2018 - Updated: April 16, 2018

Tony Milo

Transportation, PERA reform, and school safety have dominated legislative news for months. But, it’s important to take note of the fact that legislators have been hard at work on a broader agenda of issues including a critical update to the 811 program.

Colorado’s 811 One-Call Program was created in 1981 to prevent injury and property damage resulting from accidents during excavation. The program established a single statewide notification system to protect consumers and alert excavators of crucial information regarding the location of underground facilities prior to digging. The system significantly reduces risk of injuries and damages.

811 may not be one of the most exciting issues being discussed in the halls of the State Capitol, but it does have significant, real-world impacts on the safety of Coloradans. Consider the implications of someone not calling before a project. Without the 811 program, he or she could begin digging, accidently cut a gas, cable or water line, placing people at risk of serious injury or even death – not to mention the cost to consumers.

Of course, the 811 program is not only a cost saving resource, it is also a crucial safety tool for large scale industrial excavation ranging from construction to agriculture.

After nearly four decades with no significant updates, the 811 program has fallen behind the evolution of technology and best practices. SB 18-167 is an opportunity to improve the program and bring it into the 21stcentury. After months of statewide meetings, negotiations, and education efforts, a broad and diverse coalition of industry, consumers, and lawmakers has developed a much-needed update to 811. With less than a month left in the legislative session, it’s time to vote yes and pass this important legislation.

In a nutshell, SB 18-167 updates best practices, provides for tier transition, and creates a much-needed enforcement provision. Important elements of the bill include:

  • An additional requirement that all newly installed facilities are locatable, making it easier to find and protect those facilities the next time excavation is required;
  • Clarification of the duties of both owners and operators in marking the location of facilities and the duties of excavators in having adequate markings throughout the excavation period;
  • Phases in a true “one-call” system by eliminating the tiered membership provisions for all industries;
  • Reduces the likelihood of expensive, time consuming delays caused by unforeseen underground utility conflicts on public works projects such as road and bridge or water and sewer line construction;
  • Implements a true “one-call” system to improve safety by ensuring all owners and operators receive notification of excavation activities from the 811 Notification Association;
  • Creates an Underground Damage Prevention Safety Commission composed of representatives from agriculture, energy industry, local government, owners or operators and excavators.
  • Provides protections for false claims to the Underground Damage Prevention Safety Commission.
  • Establishes an even playing field and applies enforcement equally to all participants of the state’s One-Call Program while acknowledging local government authority to enforce its own program requirements.
  • Updates to the 811 systems are necessaryand will absolutely save money on expensive, accidental line cuts. More importantly, this legislation will improve and ensure the safety of our citizens. Finally, SB 18-167, is an important policy measure that has support from legislators in both chambers and from both parties.

Join me in supporting SB 18-167 and urge lawmakers to vote YES.

Tony Milo

Tony Milo

Tony Milo is executive director of the Colorado Contractors Association.