VIRGINIA 811, the designated one-call notification center for the state of Virginia, is actively assisting stakeholders as they navigate and adapt to the recent changes in the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act. These changes, which took effect on July 1, 2023, mark a significant milestone as the Act undergoes substantial modifications for the first time in nearly a quarter of acentury.
Initially passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1979, the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act outlines the responsibilities of stakeholders in preventing damage to underground utility lines during excavation and demolition activities. Over the years, the Act has been amended to provide further clarity on these responsibilities. However, the latest changes significantly modify the excavation process and place greater emphasis on safety and compliance.
B. Scott Crawford, President & CEO of Virginia 811, emphasizes the organization’s commitment to supporting stakeholders throughout this transitional period. “Our goal is to provide comprehensive resources, foster open communication, and ensure a seamless and successful transition for all parties involved,” he states.
One of the more notable amendments to be introduced is the revision of §56-265.17 F, which will lower the scope of locate requests from one mile to one-third mile. Additionally, the revised §56-265.17 and §56-265-24 introduce stricter conduct guidelines before commencing excavation after 48 hours. Excavators will be required to review the Positive Response System before commencing any excavation activities.
To offer greater flexibility in scheduling work dates for marking, §56-265.19 now permits the scheduling of excavations up to 12 working days in advance. This provision aims to facilitate better coordination between excavators and utility operators, reducing potential conflicts and enhancing safety. Virginia 811 will implement programming adjustments to support the ability to schedule excavation up to 12 working days, effective January 1, 2024.
Furthermore, the newly established §56-265.24:1 introduces penalties for continuing excavation when deemed a threat to life, health, and property by the Commission Staff. These penalties emphasize the importance of compliance with the Act and promoting safety. Additionally, fines for Act violations have been increased, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. Non-compliance with the requirement to contact Virginia 811 and submit a Locate Request prior to excavation, as stated in §56-265.32, may result in fines up to $10,000.
Virginia 811 recognizes the significance of these changes and remains dedicated to educating and assisting excavators, utility operators, and the public throughout the transition. Through collaboration with stakeholders, Virginia 811 strives to foster a culture of safety, prevent damages, and safeguard the state’s vital underground infrastructure.