Many accidents involving ruptured or damaged pipelines happen after flags or marks have been placed. Pay attention to these rules at all times to avoid a potentially hazardous situation.
On average there are at least seven operators that need to perform checks. Make sure all utilities have had enough time to respond by looking for their paint, or check your call ticket for a positive response.
Respect the marks. If your project runs over 30 days, or if you are unable to maintain the marks, call 811 and ask for a re-mark.
Known as the “tolerance zone,” this area is a safety buffer in which no digging should occur. If you must dig near a mark, dig by hand or use vacuum excavation to expose the utility. Always avoid using mechanized equipment near a utility or mark. Be aware that marks are placed as near as practical to the center of the pipeline and all pipelines are different sizes. This means there are different tolerance zones for each pipeline, and those zones could be greater than 24 inches on each side of the mark.
Natural gas will ignite and burn, and if exposed to the skin, serious injury may occur. Escaping gases can displace oxygen, so if you smell rotting eggs, it’s time to get out. If working near a pipeline, always be aware of your senses. LOOK for escaping liquids, dead vegetation, and bubbles or oily sheens in standing water; LISTEN for hissing or bubbling sounds; and SMELL for the odor of oil or gasoline.
Stop digging if you hit, scrape, dent or otherwise damage a pipeline. Even slight nicks in the pipeline’s protective coating need to be assessed to prevent future problems. If a pipeline is leaking, all workers should leave the area immediately in an upwind direction and stop using any electronics near the leak. Get to a safe location and call 911 and then the pipeline operator. The pipeline markers will state the operator name, emergency number and product contained in the line.