Law changes in safe digging

Higher penalties are among legislative changes this year to North Dakota’s One Call program.

Depending on the severity, the North Dakota Public Service Commission now can levy a fine up to $25,000 per violation in instances where people fail to use the state’s Call-Before-You-Dig number, 811.

Public Service Commissioners Brian Kalk, Randy Christmann and Julie Fedorchak joined leaders in the construction and utility industries Tuesday in Minot to remind people of the One Call program.

North Dakota law requires anyone conducting a demolition or excavation of more than 12 inches to notify 811 at least two days in advance of digging. Personnel will be sent to locate underground utilities at no cost to the caller, typically within a couple days. Under recent legislative changes, the locates are valid for 21 days rather than 10 days.

Another law change now allows utility companies to charge for relocates. This is an effort to reduce duplicate requests for locating infrastructure on the same area of land.

Calls from 811 to utilities requesting locates rose from 849,000 in 2011 to 1.1 million in 2012, a 36 percent increase.

“811 is especially important this year with the seemingly never ending winter,” commission chairman Brian Kalk said. “People are going to be excited to start on yard projects and they need to take the proper steps to ensure their safety. The last thing I want is for someone to be injured or have to pay for damages that could have been avoided by calling 811.”