Damage Prevention meetings are held by and for the excavation community each spring. They are focused on safe digging education with content provided by Gopher State One Call, the Minnesota Common Ground Alliance and the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety. The goal of these meetings is to inform locators, utility operators and excavators about underground utility safety protocols and best practices, and to ensure that safety continues to be the No. 1 goal across Minnesota’s damage prevention industry.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all meetings were conducted virtually this year. In addition to virtual discussions, content is still available to view independently for anyone who is interested. Visit the DP meetings page on the Gopher State One Call website to go through the modules at your own pace. There is also a DP meeting guide PDF to follow along with while you watch the videos if you like.
Here are some of the highlights, key takeaways and important announcements from the 2021 Damage Prevention meetings:
The 2021 GSOC handbook is now available. View or download it here. The handbook includes details on excavator and facility operator responsibilities, ticket types, marking instructions, Minnesota dig law and more.
Safety and Communication
Our goal for 2021 is zero hits. Let’s work together to make 2021 our safest year yet. Communication is the backbone of what GSOC does and what we stand for. The extra time taken to speak to your team, ask questions and take precautions while submitting tickets is what keeps the public safe and underground utilities intact. Remember, underground safety is a shared responsibility.
2020 Ticket Data
2020 was Gopher State One Call’s busiest year yet, with 941,358 total tickets, 83.1 percent of those submitted online. We also had a record six months with more than 100,000 tickets submitted per month. While numbers continue to be high, the number of utility hits has not decreased over the past five years. We all must work together to ensure safe digging.
Locate Request Process Changes for 2021: Effective Mid-April
The targeted effective date for all changes is mid-April 2021. The changes apply to both web-submitted and call center requests.
Dynamic high-volume ticket alert. During high-volume ticket times, it is recommended that you extend your requested start date and time out one-half to one full day. This will allow additional time for locators to mark your site.
- There are 11 counties affected: Hennepin, Dakota, Ramsey, Washington, Anoka, St. Louis, Olmsted, Scott, Wright, Carver and Stearns
- Effective Mondays and Tuesdays from mid-April to mid-October
Use of Meet tickets for long duration of work. During the locate request process, you will be prompted to request a Meet ticket if your duration of work is longer than one month. You will be able to revert back to a Normal ticket if you so choose.
Gopher State One Call recommends the following best practices for using Meet tickets:
- Use when the excavation area is difficult to define
- Use for projects completed in phases. This will help locators possibly locate ahead of where you are excavating and eliminates the need to have multiple tickets updated if plans change.
- In winter weather or when outdoor conditions are unpredictable, a Meet ticket can help locators and excavators stay on the same page and ensure that markings are accurate and fresh.
- Use for long duration of work in Normal tickets
- Use for projects lasting more than a month
Meet tickets provide increased communication and greater efficiency for locators. Learn more about handling Meet tickets safely during COVID-19 here.
Update tickets. The Update ticket process will change so that on the second update request for the same ticket, the marking instructions will be cleared, and new marking instructions will need to be entered.
- New marking instructions required on second update request
- New ticket number assigned
- New number can be tracked back to original request
White lining responses. White markings are required by law and increase the efficiency of locators by clearly showing where they need to locate. In order to encourage white lining, you will now need to respond in further detail to this question when you submit a locate request.
- If YES, describe how markings are done
- If NO, describe why you have not done so
- Responses are automatically entered into ticket “Mark entire lot” instructions
- If you state, “Mark entire lot,” or similar language, on your locate request, you will be prompted to provide more precise marking instructions.
- Precise marking instructions enable locators to more quickly identify the area to be marked and reduce unnecessary markings.
Remember, these process changes are scheduled to take effect mid-April 2021.
Expectations for Locators and Excavators
Gopher State One Call expects locators and operators to:
- Call if they are going to be late
- Use extended start time
- Attend meets
- Provide updated contact information on tickets
- Provide maps if they are requested
- Locate on time
- Provide abandoned facility information
- Enter positive response
We expect excavators to:
- Perform white markings before submitting the locate request
- Provide a start date and time. Give more time if possible.
- Provide precise ticket information – DO NOT use “mark entire lot”
- Provide a field contact cell phone number
- Use the appropriate ticket type
These tips will help keep communication lines open and jobs running more smoothly.
Inform customers and homeowners. Excavators and contractors, please inform your customers or homeowners that locators will be coming out to mark the buried facilities prior to excavation. Many locators are running into upset homeowners, who are unaware of them being on-site.
Start tickets later in the week. Starting your tickets on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday instead of Monday and Tuesday might help spread out the locate demand. You can still enter tickets all in one day, but spread out the excavation dates to give locators more time. Monday and Tuesday are normally very busy.
Update field contact information. Excavators must have updated field contact information, meaning a cell phone number that you have access to in the field. If you do not provide this number, the locators may be unable to reach you with questions, comments or concerns. In these situations, they may have to guess and spend extra time trying to figure out who to track down.
Always check positive response. Always check online to confirm the positive responses on your ticket. Don't assume that locates have been met by the legal timeline. Make sure you communicate in order to avoid a damage. If there are marks missing, pick up the phone and contact the locator to see when locates will be completed.
Mark when using hand tools. GSOC advises you that, although hand tools are exempt from the requirement to contact GSOC before you excavate, it is highly recommended for you to have underground facilities marked even when using hand tools. The use of hand tools may pose a threat to you and others. Examples of hand tool projects include tent stakes, anchor bolts, form pins, metal probes, survey stakes, hand augers, political signs and real estate signs.
Note: The Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety (MNOPS) has several resources and training materials for excavators and locators. This year they have also put together a series of case studies looking at proper potholing, near-hit and refraining from marking an entire lot that can be found on their website.