Last week was a deadly one for workers near pipelines in Texas. In two separate incidents, three men were killed and 11 injured when workers digging in the ground struck natural gas pipelines.
We are fortunate to have a system in place--One Call--to make sure these kinds of incidents don't happen. And investigations are underway to determine whether workers involved in the two Texas explosions called 811 and how the utilities and pipeline operators may have responded.
But, given the deaths of these three workers and the injuries to their co-workers, I want to remind workers whose jobs require them to dig underground to call 811 before you dig.
It's not only the law; it saves lives.
Whether you're drilling into the ground to install utility poles, as the workers in Cleburne were doing on June 7, or digging for caliche with a bulldozer, as the workers in Darrouzett were doing the very next day, excavation can be dangerous.
And the damage from excavation poses a serious threat, not
only to the workers involved, but to everyone in the area.
America has a vital transportation system that remains virtually invisible to most of us: the network of 2.3 million miles of pipelines criss-crossing this nation just beneath the surface. Those pipelines carry a tremendous load and perform a very important service.
However, as vital as those pipelines are, they are still vulnerable to digging and drilling.
Dialing 811, our national “Call Before You Dig” number, connects excavators anywhere in the country to One-Call centers to alert utility owners and pipeline operators of planned digging activities.
We've done a good job of reducing the number of digging-related pipeline incidents. But, between 2000 and 2009, excavation damage was still the leading cause of all significant pipeline incidents. These incidents resulted in 38 fatalities, 158 injuries, and $196 million in property damage.
Now, in a single week, we have three more fatalities and 11 more injuries.
My deepest sympathies go out to the families, friends, and colleagues of those men killed. And I wish the injured workers the speediest of recoveries.
Through our Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, this DOT will continue to push for the widespread use of 811 and appropriate responses to 811 calls to protect pipelines and the workers who dig near them.
So, please, whether you're digging on the job or around your yard, call 811 before you dig. These dangerous incidents are 100% preventable, but that prevention starts with you making the One-Call.