New York contractor slapped with record $US85K fine for one-call breaches

PEL714 New York contractor slapped with record US85K fine for one call breaches

The New York State Public Service Commission last month issued its largest-ever penalty, $US85,000, against an excavator for violating safe digging rules.

The Commission found that a Long Island City contractor, New York Paving Inc, had committed numerous violations of the rules designed to protect underground pipes and wires from damage.

The company was cited by the Commission 10 times between May 2014 and May 2016 for failing to provide notice of intent to excavate to the one-call notification system, the equivalent of Australia’s Dial Before You Dig service.

During this period it damaged gas pipes ranging from a 1.2cm natural gas service line up to a 15cm natural gas main. “In each instance, those failures resulted in damage to underground pipes in National Grid’s New York City and Long Island service territories, thankfully with no injuries or loss of life,” the Commission said.

Commission chair, Audrey Zibelman, said: “The public demands excavators safeguard life and property when working with critical infrastructure, and we will not shy away from making sure excavators meet that requirement.”

According to the Commission, New York Paving had been contracted to perform paving restoration work and had claimed that the general contractor for the projects had provided the required notice to the one-call system.However the rules require the company actually performing the excavation work to notify the one-call notification system.

The record fine imposed on New York Paving was the result of changes signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2013. Prior to these changes the maximum penalty the Commission could have imposed would have been $US10,000.

Since 2013 the Commission has imposed fines totalling $US3.25m  on excavators for failure to notify the one-call system before excavating. The money collected has been used to fund training in safe-excavation practices.

New York State has two one-call service operators. New York 811 serves New York City and Long Island and Dig Safely New York serves the remainder of the State.

The Commission, which oversees some 92,000 miles (148,000kms) of gas pipelines, claims to pride itself on its zealous safety oversight. “The Commission’s rigorous review of utilities’ natural gas infrastructure and operations exceeds federal requirements, prescribes aggressive safety performance metrics, and holds utilities financially accountable to meet standards,” it says.

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