Underground Damage Prevention Overview
The Division of Enforcement administers the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Program to ensure public safety and minimize damage to underground facilities. Third party excavation continues to be the number one cause of damage to underground facilities in New Hampshire and nationally.
Over the last 10 years (2013 to 2022) New Hampshire experienced a 53% increase in calls into the DigSafe center, reflecting strong construction activity, greater public awareness of excavation dangers including awareness of 811 notification system, and an increase in the amount of utility underground infrastructure. During the same time period, New Hampshire has experienced a 60% decrease in the number of reported damages and other probable violations. This is indicative of continued enforcement, ongoing Division of Enforcement training, increased advertising and other public outreach efforts by all utilities and stakeholders. Annually each spring, the Division of Enforcement co-sponsors with Managing Underground Safety Training (MUST) at least three Dig Safe® damage prevention seminars state-wide with over 500 participants in attendance.
Underground Damage Prevention Laws are listed in RSA 374:48-56 and more specific Department of Energy rules are found in Administrative Rules Puc 800. In February 2017, the latest revision to the PUC 800 Rules took effect and can be found in Docket No. DRM-16-508.
The Division of Enforcement inspects construction sites for damage prevention compliance, investigates reported damage, and issues citations when probable violations are identified. In 2022 the Division processed 133 reports of damage to underground facilities.
The Division of Enforcement sponsors a number of Dig Safe damage prevention seminars and education opportunities throughout the state. Three types of training are provided:
- Annual Seminars geared toward general contractors, presented in conjunction with utilities;
- Trainings conducted at company headquarters upon request; and
- Training conducted at Commission offices to address civil penalties and specific contractor violations.
The Division of Enforcement was recognized by Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in its 2022 assessment as one of top ten states to achieve a perfect score for its Underground Utility Damage Prevention Program for nine basic elements, including enhanced communication between operators and excavators, partnership in public and employee education and training, and fair and consistent enforcement of the law.
Nine Elements of Effective Damage Prevention Programs
- Enhanced Communications between Operators and Excavators
- Fostering Support and Partnership of all Stakeholders
- Operator's Use of Performance Measures for Locators
- Partnership in Employee Training
- Partnership in Public Education
- Enforcement Agencies' Role to Help Resolve Issues
- Fair and Consistent Enforcement of the Laws
- Use of Technology to Improve the Locating Process
- Data Analysis to Continually Improve Program Effectiveness
PHMSA annually evaluates each state excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs and determines if it is adequate or inadequate. In those states where inadequate enforcement is found then PHMSA can enforce the minimum Federal damage prevention standards. New Hampshire is a state that is considered as having an effective excavation damage prevention law enforcement program. The program has been put in place to protect the public from the risk of pipeline ruptures caused by excavation damage, thus federal enforcement is not necessary. New Hampshire's evaluation results are below.
|Review||Notification Date||Score||Adequate/Not Adequate|
Criteria to be Used to Evaluate State Excavation Damage Prevention Law Enforcement Program:
- Does the state have enforcement authority including civil penalties?
- Is there a designated enforcement body?
- Is the state using its authority and making enforcement records available to the public?
- Does the state have a reliable means of learning about damages?
- Does the state have damage investigation practices that are adequate to determine the at-fault party when damage occurs?
- At a minimum, does state law require:
- Excavators must call 811 before digging
- Excavators must "respect the marks"
- If damage to a pipeline occurs…
- Excavator must report damage to operator at earliest practical moment
- If release occurs, excavator must call 911
- Are exemptions from the damage prevention law limited? Written justification of exemptions are required.
Upon completion of PHMSA’s audit, The Division of Enforcement received a perfect score.
Enforcement of the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Program remains a high priority for the Division of Enforcement. Civil penalties totaling more than $137,000 were received over the latest two-year period, all of which were applied to the State’s General Fund. Educational training for contractors is also conducted by staff in lieu of civil penalties, totaling an equivalent value of $42,500 for 2021 and 2022. Since 2004, over $1,067,000 has been collected in civil penalties.
For more information see Education and Training.
Before beginning your excavation, contact the Road Agent or Public Works Dept. in the community where you intend to dig. Current list of municipal officials.