Virginia 811 announces proactive measures to adapt to the upcoming law changes in the Damage Prevention Act scheduled to take effect July 1, 2023. The Virginia General Assembly passed the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act in 1979 to define stakeholders’ responsibilities to prevent excavation/demolition damage to underground utility lines. Since then, the Act has been amended several times to further clarify these responsibilities. But the upcoming changes will significantly modify the excavation process and reinforce the importance of safety and compliance.
One of the notable amendments includes the revision of §56-265.17, which will lower the scope of locate requests from 1 linear mile to 1/3 linear 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. Also, Special Project tickets will no longer be available.
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 owners, reducing potential conflicts and enhancing safety. Virginia 811 will implement programming adjustments to support the ability to schedule excavation up to 12 working days. However, this feature will not be available until January 1, 2024.
Furthermore, under §56-265.24:1, penalties have been established for refusing to cease excavation when the Commission Staff determines that the ongoing excavation poses a threat to life, health and property. Education and outreach efforts will also be bolstered to ensure widespread awareness and compliance with the Act.
To further emphasize the importance of compliance and safe digging practices, the possible fines for violations of the Act will be increased. The fines will now range from $2,500 up to $5,000. In the case of failing to contact Virginia 811 and submit a Locate Request prior to excavation, as outlined in §56-265.32, fines have the potential to be as high as $10,000 in cases of noncompliance.
Virginia 811 acknowledges the significance of these changes and remains committed to educating and assisting excavators, utility owners and the public throughout the transition. By collaborating with stakeholders, Virginia 811 strives to promote a culture of safety, prevent damages, and protect the state’s vital underground infrastructure.
The revisions to the Damage Prevention Act will come into effect on July 1, 2023. For more information and to stay updated on these changes, please visit VA811.com.