Those that “dig in the dirt” are very familiar with the Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT), which was launched in 2003 by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA). Over the years California has enacted several statutes requiring anyone moving dirt to notify a regional notification center of the area of planned disturbance that may impact a subsurface installation. A subsurface installation operator then takes prompt steps to accurately mark the earthen area to avoid harm to the affected property. Also, the statutes mandate that any damage discovered ator caused to any subsurface installation must be reported. Damage is defined broadly and includes “all breaks, leaks, nicks, dents, gouges, grooves, or other damage to subsurface installation lines, conduits, coatings, or cathodic protection” pursuant to California Government Code section 4216.4(c). See Government Code sections 4216-4216.9 for more information. But, effective January 1, 2014, Government Code section 4216.6 (c) and (d) now calls for the gathering and reporting of statewide information about “facility events” that have been reported using DIRT.
The new amendments to Government Code section 4216.6 (d)(1) seeking the gathering of statewide information now define facility events as “the occurrence of excavator downtime, damages, near misses, and violations.” But, while any person damaging property of another already has mandatory reporting requirements, reporting downtime and near misses remains categories of voluntary reporting. Expanded definitions of damages and violations in the CGA “Best Practices” request the provision of information voluntarily to assist facilities and operators in ensuring fewer dangerous practices and less resulting harm to person or property through proactive training and education. The CGA yearly publishes “Common Ground: Study of One-Call Systems & Damage Prevention Best Practices” (CGA Best Practices). The March 2013 edition provides useful definitions for these categories of voluntary reporting:
- Downtime = Lost time reported by a stakeholder on the DIRT field form for an excavation project due to failure of one or more stakeholders to comply with applicable damage prevention regulations.
- Damages = Any impact or exposure that results in the need to repair an underground facility due to a weakening or the partial or complete destruction of the facility, including, but not limited to, the protective coating, lateral support, cathodic protection, or housing for the line, device, or facility.
- Near misses = An event where damage (as defined above) did not occur, but a clear potential for damage was identified.
While the new statutory sections do not mandate individual reporting under the expanded definitions, those working in this field may voluntarily report additional information if they desire to assist the CGA and the state in proactively educating those in the field and the public as to best practices. And, although the reporting is labeled as confidential, those considering voluntary reporting should first discuss any ramifications of such expanded voluntary reporting with their counsel.