SACRAMENTO, Calif.—With safety as its highest priority, the city of Sacramento announced today that it has become a Gold Shovel Standard Community, a program created by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) requiring that contractors adhere to the safest excavation standards to prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient outages while reducing demand on first responders.
A Gold Shovel Standard Community is one where bids to work on buried utilities are awarded exclusively to those demonstrating caution around buried infrastructure. These communities demand the best from those excavating within their boundaries.
“In a Gold Shovel Standard Community, everyone wins. Communities, agencies and utilities hire highly-trained, dedicated contractors who have taken the extra steps to earn Gold Shovel classification, reducing the number of dig-ins and protecting the public from hazards resulting from damaged underground infrastructure,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
The program is a critical tool in protecting communities. Every six minutes in the United States, an underground utility line is damaged during excavation work. Local utility companies work in partnership with city fire departments daily to protect communities from hazardous pipe breaks. For example, in 2016 PG&E reported 1,620 incidents in which excavators damaged underground lines, putting communities at risk and resulting in almost $15 million in billed damages.
“The Gold Shovel Standard creates a trusted level of certification. When we look at the list of Gold Shovel contractors, we know we are getting the best, most responsible and safety-minded excavators on the job. Sacramento’s adoption of Gold Shovel shows our shared values in protecting the safety of the communities we serve,” Senior Vice President of PG&E’s Gas Operations Jesus Soto said.
One of the primary reasons damage occurs is because excavators do not call 811 or contact 811express.com, a free service that marks the location of utility lines. Not digging safely with hand tools around marked utility lines is the second most common reason damage occurs.
PG&E developed the Gold Shovel Standard Certification process to ensure that hired contractors adhere to the safest excavation standards. Because of the program’s success, the independent organization Oropala was created so that across the country, contractors could seek Gold Shovel Standard certification and municipalities could become Gold Shovel Standard communities.
In exchange for companies complying with the Gold Shovel Standard (GSS), contractors receive promotional collateral material to boost their reputation as GSS-certified. To qualify, companies must provide basic awareness training and whistleblower and stop-work authority for workers; have a policy to hire Gold Shovel Standard subcontractors; and follow through with a thorough investigation in the event of an incident and report all damages, among other requirements.
About the 811 Free Safety Service
811 is a free nationwide service that sends utilities to mark the presence of underground lines, including gas, electric, water and fiber optic services. Underground Service Alert (USA) North, which operates 811 in PG&E’s service area, created 811express.com to reduce demand to the 811 call line and provide a convenient way for the public to request utility markings.
Homeowners and contractors can prevent gas leaks and power outages while protecting themselves and the safety of their community by requesting a USA ticket. Contractors are required by law to contact 811 at least two working days prior to excavation, but any digging project should prompt a request for a USA ticket, including planting a tree in the yard or setting posts for a picket fence. In addition to creating a possible safety hazard, failing to contact 811 may result in costly fines and project delays.
Fiona Chan | Integrated Multicultural Communications | Pacific Gas and Electric Company
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