The United States has the largest energy pipeline network on the globe, more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines are underneath U.S. soil, this powerhouse of utilities could wrap around the world about 86 times. Therefore as the congested underground continues to be exploited it is paramount to ensure safety.

President Obama signs Pipeline Safety Bill into Law

The PIPES Act of 2016 updates safety regulations and encourages emerging technologies. PIPES or “Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety” is a new law that will reform the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration to increase efficiency and transparency. It focuses on improving safety by closing gaps in federal standards, enhances the quality and timeliness of PHMSA rulemaking, promotes better use of data and technology to improve pipeline safety, and leverages federal and state pipeline safety resources.

Promotes better use of data and technology to improve pipeline safety

The law will task Government Accountability Offices with investigating how to use technology to improve third-party damage prevention. The PIPES Act creates an aggressive timetable for mandated studies including technology improvements to prevent excavation damage to pipelines and pipeline coatings.

It is required that a thorough study be conducted to improve damage prevention programs “through technological improvements in location, mapping, excavation and communications practices to prevent excavation damage…” “Technology has come a long way over the past several decades, but state excavation damage programs have not caught up,” said AII Chairman Brigham McCown. “Most are still using phone calls to communicate and flags and spray paint to identify pipeline locations.”

The Alliance for Infrastructure and Innovation (AII) issued a report on state excavation damage prevention programs that concluded, “Current excavation damage laws, regulations and practices are not nearly as far along as they could be in implementing positive response requirements and technological improvements, like digital maps using GPS technologies, and shareable dockets with a record of all dig site data. But, some states are moving in the right direction and the trend in recent years seems to be moving toward favoring advanced safety and communications technologies.”

Get involved with your local 811 and promote safe digging.

Pipeline owners and operators should remain actively engaged – educating your staff on proper safety regulations and precautions now could save you in the long run. Proper training for your utility locator operators can save time and money on a congested jobsite. Combine your locator crew with a truck or trailer vacuum excavator to keep you productive. Vacuum excavation is the proven and productive way to safely locate and put eyes on any utility before digging. With strict regulations in the foreseeable future practice safe digging, train you crew on best practices, provide them with tools to their success and safety – get your crew ready and request a demo today.

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